The police violence suffered by Theo, a French black youth living in the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, is atrocious. He was beaten up by four policemen and allegedly raped with a police baton, while racist insults were hurled at him.
This insufferable aggression was followed by worse: the 10-centimeter tear caused by
Theo's rape was deemed “unintentional” by the IGPN (the French police internal investigation unit). Young protesters who were accused of throwing stones at police officers have already been condemned to prison sentences while the four perpetrators of violence enjoy full freedom of movement. Is this because they are presumed innocent until proven guilty? Then, what about Theo's presumption of innocence? And why are youths—or “bamboulas” (roughly the equivalent of “nigger”) as a police union representative called them—who loiter around the entrance of apartment houses presumed guilty without evidence by the police?
According to Fillon, “the police, the gendarmes and other law enforcement agents […] have nothing to do with it”! By saying this, he makes it clear that as a stalwart defender of the capitalist social order he takes sides with Theo's tormentors. Le Pen has also taken sides with the policemen and a National Front official has called Theo a “scumbag”!
Theo survived and can bear witness to what happened—which wasn't the case for young Adama Traoré, who died on July 19, 2016 inside the gendarmerie of Beaumont-sur-Oise, 40 kilometers north of Paris. The Aulnay-sous-Bois police “blunder” is not an isolated fact. Each year, young men and grown-ups are killed during police interventions. Arrests go wrong because many policemen behave as if they were in enemy territory. The people gathered in Bobigny on Saturday evening were protesting against police behavior and they cannot be dismissed just as “vandals”
Of course, the police are on the front line facing the violence engendered by the crumbling social order. But reinforcing their power will only make things worse. The creation of a “receipt” to be handed to people whose identity has been checked by the police was once considered by the Socialist Party. But they quickly dropped the idea and, with the support of the right wing and the National Front, they are now intent on giving in to the demands of the police for freer use of lethal weapons. Adopting such a measure would put France on a par with the US where the police have a legal right to kill.
On the contrary, we need to target the inequalities and massive unemployment which plague society, destroying any perspective of a brighter future for youths living in working-class neighborhoods. Theo is 22 years old and unemployed, like so many working-class youths. At the same age, François Fillon's son, Charles, was a law student, had a nice student job as his father's assistant (Fillon was then a senator) and earned 4,846 euros per month. Unfortunately, he left no trace whatsoever of his activity... Neither did his sister, Marie, who was paid 3,806 euros per month for a similar non-existent activity! Today, Fillon's son is a business lawyer and can probably earn in one year what Theo will not be able to pull in a lifetime. That is how present-day society runs: working-class youths reap exclusion, racism and repression; daddy's boys get all the privileges and free rides.
The unfairness of the discrepancy between Theo's broken youth and the gilded youth of the Fillon children is just one example of the blatant injustice which permeates society from top to bottom. There are those who try to make a living and those who have a self-aggrandized sense of entitlement. Every day, the very wealthy receive dividends that exceed what a working-class household earns in a year—or even a lifetime for some. Liliane Bettencourt, one of France’s richest capital-owners, rakes in each week over a million euros in dividends paid by L'Oréal—but somehow she doesn't have to pay wealth tax!
The Fillon family case and Theo's predicament should remind us that the rich are convinced that they have every right; that the poor have nothing but duties; and that the state apparatus (the police, the judicial system etc.) is there to serve the interests of the former to the detriment of the latter. In the spring of 2016, this lesson was learned by many among those who demonstrated against the Labor Law (dozens of them are still awaiting trial). Today, young people living in working-class neighborhoods have launched a new wave of protests against another aspect of the same unfair social order.
In the coming weeks and months, we must collectively raise our voice to express our anger against this bourgeois society. We have to make it clear that we want an end to inequality, exploitation and the racism they foster. Let us stand up for the rights of those who, whatever their nationality, religion or skin color, fight the domination that the wealthy hold over society and the violence that this inevitably brings.