Anti-police protests in Paris turned violent Wednesday night, Feb. 15, marking the second week of fiery demonstrations sparked by the alleged rape of a Black man by a French police officer with a baton earlier this month.
Protesters faced off with riot police as they set trash cans and garbage bins ablaze in the streets of the 18th arrondissement, just north of the French capital, The Independent reported. In an effort to disperse the crowd, riot police launched tear-gas canisters — which were simply thrown back. A shop was looted as well, as demonstrators shattered its windows, according to the newspaper.
Photos and cell phone video posted to social media showed protesters holding signs that read “Justice for Theo” and “F-ck the police by accident,” while others chanted “We do not forgive! we do not forgive!” An estimated 400 people took to the streets to protest police brutality on Wednesday; a total of 200 people have been arrested since the start of the protests on Feb. 2, the Express reported.
— Clément Lanot (@ClementLanot) February 15, 2017
Nombreux dégâts après une manifestation spontanée contre les violences policières au départ de Menilmontant à Paris. Au – 2 interpellations. pic.twitter.com/HawgxKUvHE
— Remy Buisine (@RemyBuisine) February 15, 2017
Protests were initially contained to the Parisian suburbs but quickly spread to Paris after a 22-year-old youth worker named Theo accused a French policeman of sodomizing him with a baton during a “routine” identification check in the Aulnay-sous-Bois suburb on Feb. 2. The unnamed officer has since been charged with rape, while three other policemen were charged with assault. All four have been suspended from duty while they await trial.
An initial investigation into the violent incident yielded no evidence to prove that the officers intentionally raped the Black Frenchman, with officers asserting that Theo’s pants somehow “slipped down on their own” and that the weapon entering his anus was “an accident.” While investigators acknowledged that Theo was penetrated, they concluded the incident was not considered rape due to the “unintentional character” of the officers’ actions.
The Independent reported that Theo remains hospitalized with severe head and anal injuries.
During a National Assembly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14, French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux labeled the alleged rape a “tragic accident” but later apologized for his comments via Twitter.
Le terme "accident" etait inapproprié. Je reaffirme ma confiance dans la Justice pour établir les responsabilités et qualifier les faits.
— Bruno Le Roux (@BrunoLeRoux) February 14, 2017
*Translation: “The term “accident” was inappropriate. I reaffirm my confidence in the Justice to establish responsibilities and qualify the facts.”
Amid violent protests in his neighborhood and others across Paris, Theo has called for peace, saying, “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.”