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Tensions rise as Paris ‘police rape’ protests turn violent

Bobigny demonstrators were attacked with tear gas over the weekend, following days of civil unrest

Divisions between police and residents in Bobigny – sparked by demonstrations over the alleged rape of a young black man – reached peak levels of violence over the weekend.

Around 2,000 protesters reportedly took to the streets to voice their anger, holding signs emblazoned with the words: “Police kill innocents”. However, frequent clashes with a fringe group of protesters, who threw projectiles and set vehicles alight, led to increased force from the police, who resorted to attacking crowds with tear gas.

Shockingly, one group of officers also appear to have been caught on camera threatening to rape a group of protesters: shouting the words “I’m going to fuck you in the ass” while trying to quell the riots. 

The unrest follows last week’s rallies, which were held to protest the mistreatment of a 22-year-old youth worker known only as Théo. He is currently hospitalised and requires surgery after sustaining severe injuries to his rectum.

President of France Francois Hollande visited Théo in hospital where, from his bed, the young man gave an earnest message to the public: “Stop the war, let’s be united,” he said, “I trust the justice (system).” There were also incidents in Toulouse and Orleans, and in Marseille where four people were arrested.

A police officer in Paris has been charged with anally raping Théo with an extendable baton while three others have been charged with assault. They deny the charges. The organisation in charge of investigating the police issued a statement claiming the attack had been an “accident”.

Racial tensions between police and the largely ethnic and migrant population of the area have been gestating for a while. One man said, “I’ve been continually stopped and insulted by police for years. It’s a daily experience Arab people and black people in France.” The cause of these tensions is rooted in cases of unjustified identity checks, with many calling the constant ID searches – of which Theo had been subjected to – racial profiling.

This isn’t the first time French police brutality has sparked conflict. In 2005, there was an uproar after two young people were electrocuted after hiding from police who gave chase. An ongoing investigation into the death of a black man in police custody last summer has attracted allegations of a cover-up.