200 people take to streets of central Paris to protest police violence
Alleged rape of 22-year-old man by police in city's suburbs sparked outrage
Police report claims rape was accident
Violent anti-police protests that have swept the suburbs of Paris since early February spread into the French capital’s city center on Wednesday night.
Two hundred demonstrators gathered in the neighborhood of Barbes, near Paris’ Gare du Nord train station, protesting against the alleged rape of a 22-year-old black man by police. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
They demanded justice for the victim, identified only as Théo, chanting “We do not forget we do not forgive.” Others set trashcans and rubbish alight in the streets.
Videos and photos shared on social media showed riot police throwing tear gas canisters at the crowds, which were lobbed back by protesters.
A spokesperson for the Paris police prefecture confirmed to CNN that officers had fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, adding that one person had been arrested. The local metro station was shuttered during the unrest.
Police suspended, charged
Amid a sea of signs and banners at the Paris protest on Wednesday night, one stood out: “F*** the police by accident.” The message, scrawled in black ink on cardboard, hit back at the way authorities have described the incident.
Speaking at the National Assembly on Tuesday, French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux labeled the alleged sexual assault a “tragic accident.” He later walked back the comments in a statement on Twitter.
According to the Agence France-Presse news agency, an internal police investigation found that the officer who allegedly sodomized Théo with his baton in the February 2 incident did so unintentionally. CNN was unable to obtain a copy of the police report.
Weeks of clashes have broken out since four police officers purportedly threw Théo to the ground, beat and raped him, leaving him with injuries so severe he required surgery.
The officers were suspended pending an inquiry into accusations that they used excessive force while arresting the young man during an identity check in the northern Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
All four officers involved in the incident have been charged with aggravated assault, while one was also charged with rape, according to the Interior Ministry.