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France bans march for black man killed in police custody

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Assa Traore (C), the sister of the late 24-year-old Adama Traore who died during his arrest by the police in July 2016, during a rally in Paris, France, on November 5, 2016. JEROME GILLES/NURPHOTO/GETTY

France has banned an annual march in memory of a man of African descent who died in police custody in 2016 amid persisting protests across the country in the wake of police shooting death of a teenager of Algerian descent. 

Saturday’s march in memory of Adama Traoré, who was pinned to the ground by police officers and killed of asphyxiation, was banned by the police prefect of Val-d’Oise.

The development has triggered further fury and a court challenge by lawyers.

The prefect’s office  said there was a risk of “disruptive elements” turning up, adding that there is potential for trouble to public order in the towns of Persan and Beaumont-sur-Oise, which had seen unrest after Nahel’s death, including an arson attack on Persan town hall.

Members of the Traoré justice campaign said banning Saturday’s march could worsen tensions, noting that the march had taken place peacefully every year for seven years.

The organizing committee said the Adama Traoré march was a “precious and necessary commemoration for our families and for all those who defend equality and want an end to police impunity.”

Traoré’s case has become symbolic in France. In recent years he has sometimes been referred to as “France’s George Floyd, in a comparison to the 2020 US case of an unarmed African American man who died from asphyxiation after a white officer knelt on his neck.

Clémentine Autain, an MP for La France Insoumise, said the ban was a political decision. She said: “It’s irresponsible of the government to ban these democratic and peaceful forms of expression.”

The latest unrest has revived memories of riots in 2005 which convulsed France for three weeks and forced then-president Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency.

The United Nations has already warned France against French police brutality, saying Paris needs to address deep issues of racial discrimination among French law enforcement officers.

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