Demonstrators have taken to the streets in and around Paris to protest the alleged beating and rape of a black man by French police.
The unrest has gone on nearly a week, and “rioters have clashed with police and have set fire to trash cans, cars and a nursery school,” reported Jake Cigainero for NPR’s Newscast unit.
Four police officers have been suspended and charged in connection with the incident, according to a statement by the French Interior Ministry. Three face assault charges and one faces a charge of rape.
The victim, referred to by officials as “Theo,” gave the BBC a graphic account of what he says happened to him.
The BBC reported Theo said he left his house last Thursday evening and found himself in the middle of a police operation targeting drug dealers:
“Theo said he was sodomized with a truncheon, as well as racially abused, spat at and beaten around his genitals,” the broadcaster reported. “He has undergone emergency surgery for severe anal injuries, and has been declared unfit for work for 60 days.
” ‘I fell on to my stomach, I had no strength left,’ he said.
“He was then sprayed with tear gas around the head and in the mouth and hit over the head.”
On Tuesday, French President Francois Hollande visited Theo in the hospital, and later praising his dignity in a tweet, which included a photo of Hollande by his bedside.
CNN reported that police arrested 26 people on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the local prefecture in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis northeast of Paris, where the incident occurred.
Those arrests followed two previous nights of demonstrations in the region, CNN reported:
“A few miles away, near Paris’ Ménilmontant metro station, several hundred demonstrators gathered to protest police violence. Authorities say 17 people were arrested in Aulnay-sous-Bois on Tuesday night, after protesters torched garbage bins and vehicles.
“Videos shared on social media showed clashes between riot police and youths as fires burned in the streets. Police fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowd, according to French reports.
“On Monday, hundreds of peaceful protesters marched in the same northern suburb. Demonstrators carried banners reading ‘Justice for Theo’ past a nearby building that had ‘police, rapists’ written on it in graffiti.”
Stephane Troussel, the president of the General Council of the Seine-Saint-Denis region, said the incident brought up “numerous questions,” reported German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
“Although thousands of police are doing their work properly…too many arrests end in nightmares for some young people. The image of the Republic is being tarnished,” Troussel said.
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