It is funny to see how sometimes the same story can be perceived differently. I was back in the nineteenth district of Paris for some few days, three weeks ago. It was without surprise that I could still witness the direct signs of the catastrophic situation of the French economy, as it took me an hour and forty-five minutes to be served at the local post office. But what worried me more, though, were the protests and demonstrations that had been taking place for weeks in different cities across France. Paris, Toulouse, Nantes and in many other cities, for days, images of urban disorders, and even riots, were broadcasted on the green screen of every household in the ‘Hexagon’. The calm of the streets of Paris as that of many other cities was repeatedly disturbed. The demonstrations that had been organized and taking place around the controversial construction of The Sivens barrage in the South of France degenerated and resulted on the 25th of October in the death of a young communist activist: Remy Fraisse. The first investigations show that the young man was killed by a sting grenade thrown by the police. If the riots and the death of the young man were quite well covered, reported and commented in the French news, the people involved being white activists, no blame or link could be made with the presence of Ethnic minorities on the French soil; thus proving that urban disturbances are not solely a black and brown thing in France.
Besides, the death of the young man is also an “incident” that finally seems to have opened the French opinion’s eyes on police violence. The web has since been overwhelmed with reports, comments and in some few occasions coming outs from former police officers admitting irregularities when it comes to the respect of citizens’ rights from the police in France. But what should we conclude, knowing that these are the very facts that most youngsters of ethnic minority backgrounds have been denunciating for years, in vain? Their case has never been heard. Organizations and collectives mainly initiated by youngsters of Black and North African origins such as Stop le contrôle au Faciès, Urgence notre police assassine and others, have for a long time pointed out the death of Zyed and Bouna, Larami and Moushin, Lamine Dieng, Mahamaou Marega, Abou Bakari Tandia, and that of many others, as police blunders, without receiving any sincere coverage in the French mainstream media. The question has the merit to be asked: Is it that some racially privileged white people must experience the atrocities that unprivileged non-whites live on a daily basis for the French society as a whole to be moved and show compassion and concern regarding some of the injustices, and atrocities affecting the French society? Remy’s case shows once more that nothing has changed much since the Second World War. Police violence, in France today, seems to be only perceived as a serious issue when the victims are whites; just like in 1939-1945, when the whole world suddenly became conscious of the devastating consequences of racial and racist theories after some white people had for the very first time experienced what they usually and commonly inflicted to black and brown people. It is through such events as Rémy Fraisse’s murder that the history lessons taught in the schools of the ‘Republique’ appear illusionary. France’s principles of Liberté, égalité and Fraternité are null and void when we give a close look at the realities experienced by some individuals in society.
This article was first published on www.dissientvoice.org on 27th October 2014: http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/11/what-the-death-of-remy-fraisse-teaches-us/