The French policemen who severely beat and sodomized a Black man with a baton did so by “accident,” French investigators said on Thursday, Feb. 10, adding that the “serious” incident doesn’t constitute rape.
A 22-year-old youth worker, identified only as Theo, said he was physically and sexually assaulted by four French policemen during an I.D. check in the Parisian suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois on Feb. 2. He said he confronted the group of officers, who were stopping youths and demanding to see identification after he witnessed one of them smack a young person in the face. That’s when Theo said the police took him around the corner, threw him to the ground and began beating and sodomizing him with the truncheon.
A police source also told French news source The Local that footage of the attack showed an officer applying a truncheon blow horizontally across [Theo’s] buttocks.” The young man suffered both facial and rectal injuries during the incident, which were so severe that he had to undergo emergency surgery.
Last week, French officials announced that one of the officers had been charged with rape while the three others were charged with assault. All four have been suspended from duty until their trials. Despite Theo’s extensive injuries, the officers have vehemently denied all charges against them.
During the initial investigation, investigators said they found “insufficient evidence” to prove the young man’s claim he was intentionally raped, according to The Independent. Authorities suggested Theo’s pants somehow “slipped down on their own,” and that one of the officers’ batons accidentally entered his rectum. While French investigators acknowledged that Theo was indeed penetrated, they concluded the violent incident wasn’t considered rape due to the “unintentional character” of the officers’ actions, the Huffington Post reported.
Violent demonstrations condemning police brutality and racism have carried on for six straight nights in and around the Parisian suburb, with hundreds of protesters demanding #Justice PourTheo. The Independent reported that rallies had spread to northwestern France, with 20 people arrested in Nantes following a demonstration of around 400 people in support of the young man. Protests occurred in the city of Rennes as well, and authorities said they had to detain people in neighboring suburbs for “throwing objects, lighting fires and violence.”
French President Francois Hollande, who visited Theo in the hospital on Tuesday, called for calm this week and commended the young man for reacting with dignity and responsibility in light of the terrible incident. Theo, who remians hospitalized, also asked that his neighborhood remain peaceful and united, saying he didn’t want a war on the estate and that he still trusted the justice system.
“I would like to ask the residents of my neighborhood to calm down,” he told French news station BFMTV from his hospital bed. “I ask them to stop the hostilities because I love my city, and I want to find it the way I left it. Violence is not the way to support me. Justice will do its job.”
Critics of the French police say they’re known for regularly using excessive force in poorer neighborhoods, especially against Blacks and other ethnic minorities. The in-custody death of a young Black man named Adama Traoré in another Paris suburb last summer and the slow reaction of local authorities to investigate the matter spurred accusations of police violence and an attempted cover-up, The Independent reported.
Theo’s supporters have since taken to social media to voice their support, as well as their outrage over the investigators’ conclusion that the police attack wasn’t constituted as rape.
Police brutality is not just an issue in the us, it doesn't know boundaries. Please do not ignore this horrible crime #JUSTICEFORTHEO
— sascha (@obviouslysascha) February 9, 2017
Please do not let this go unnoticed he deserves justice for this cruelty that they labelled as "accident". Speak out. #justicefortheo
— رحاب (@lgbtllodge) February 9, 2017
— hold on (@SonyaOdfall) February 9, 2017
Translation: “How can you look at yourself in a mirror in judging an [alleged] rape as an ‘accident’? It’s the worst act in the world. #justicefortheo #justicepourtheo”
Often I say France's racism is the most sexualised there is. I need for folks to hear that & consider this when reading abt #justicepourtheo
— Guilaine Kinouani (@KGuilaine) February 8, 2017
Men CAN be raped too! This shit is not okay. Those cops deserve life in prison & he deserves some damn justice #justicepourtheo
— freddie brooks (@asiakardash) February 10, 2017
The police brutality that BLACK Folk face worldwide is due to white supremacy; our oppression & liberation interlinked#JusticePourThéo
— ☻ᏒᎥϮ ♛ (@Empress_Orit) February 7, 2017
— Tokou (@tokoubr) February 5, 2017