France is still in denial about racism and police brutality

im????The fight to break the French state's wall of denial and indifference about radicalised police brutality continues.

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    the existence of a private Facebook group that has 8,000 members, in which police officers regularly shared sexist and racist content, and mocked victims of police violence. 

    In May, the Defender of Rights, the administrative authority in charge of combating discrimination in France, published a damning report accusing the Paris police of "systematic discrimination" against minority youths. 

    Just last week, Mediapart that a Black police officer reported some of his colleagues to their superiors last December for participating in a WhatsApp group in which racist, white supremacist, sexist and homophobic messages were shared. Five months later, all the accused officers are reportedly still on the job. 

    The discriminatory and violent actions of the French police make up a long list. French security forces may not be using firearms as widely and openly as their American counterparts, but this lack of firepower rarely prevents them from inflicting deadly violence on members of minority communities.  

    In France, most of the deaths in police custody in recent years were caused by the obstruction of the suspects' airways. In 2007, Lamine Dieng died of asphyxiation in a police van. In 2008, Hakim Ajimi lost his life after two police officers throttled him and compressed his chest. In 2015, Amadou Koume died of asphyxiation after being arrested in a bar. A year later, Adama Traore died under the weight of three gendarmes. Most of the deceased had one thing in common other than the way they died: An Arabic or African-sounding name. 

    On June 8, following the "Justice for Adama" protests in Paris, the French government finally announced that police will no longer be able to use chokeholds when arresting people.

    Interior Minister Castaner said the use of chokeholds was a "dangerous method" and will no longer be taught in police training. 

    Contradicting his recent assertion that Camelia Jordana's statement about police brutality in France was "false and unfair", he also claimed that he now hears the "calls against hatred" in his country. "Racism has no place in our society, not in our Republic," he added, without a hint of irony. 

    The government's apparent about-turn regarding the use of chokeholds proves that widespread public anger and protests can succeed in breaking the French state's wall of denial and indifference about radicalised police brutality in the country. 

    However, this is just the beginning.  

    Activists, NGOs, international institutions and courts have long been presenting the French state with ample evidence of the misdeeds of its police forces. The fact that it refused to take action, and even denied the existence of a problem, for so many years indicates that it is not only complacent about but also tacitly supportive of the violence French security forces inflict on minority communities. 

    im????Moreover, the state's ongoing attempts to silence public figures like Jordana who dare to speak of the abuse Black and Brown bodies suffer at the hands of French police officers, and repeated claims that "racism has no place in France" show that it is not yet ready to accept the gravity of the problem.

    To end police brutality in France for good, deliver justice for Adama, and ensure all citizens of France are treated according to the country's guiding principles of "liberty, equality, fraternity", the fight must go on. 

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.


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