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7 Feb, 2017 22:16

Protests against police brutality heat up in central Paris, while alleged victim calls for peace

The French capital and surrounding suburbs continue to be gripped by protests after a police officer was charged with the aggravated rape of a young man. The alleged victim, a black man named as Theo, has reportedly called on protesters to remain calm.

The unrest began after the 22-year-old man claimed he was beaten and raped with a baton when four police officers stopped him to check his ID in the Paris suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois in Seine-Saint-Denis.

After several nights of unrest in the suburbs, angry protests shifted to central Paris.

RT's Charlotte Dubinskij reported of a rally in Paris "going wild," where several hundred people had gathered on Tuesday night. Some demonstrators were throwing bottles at police, while others set garbage cans on fire.

"It's not normal, we're all frustrated, we are at war with the police. If they do it today, they can do it again tomorrow," one of the men in Paris told RT earlier.

Dubinskij described the protest as "heavy," saying crowds have been chanting slogans against police brutality, amid a "sense of tension on the streets of Paris."

With "huge police presence and lots of confusion," riot police have been pushing people back down a metro station as they tried to join the rally, Dubinskij reported from the scene.

Theo himself has urged French youths not to resort to violence, AFP reported on Tuesday, citing a recording released by the president's office. The French President, Francois Hollande visited the man in hospital on the outskirts of Paris, the agency reported. Citing Hollande's aide, AFP said that during the half hour meeting with the president, Theo called to "stop the war, stay united," while adding that he trusted the justice system.

At least 23 people were detained following the Tuesday protests, five of them in Aulnay-sous-Bois, BFMTV reported, adding that at least two cars were burned in Aulnay overnight. 

Violence was reported in another suburb of Paris, Tremblay-en-France, where protesters attacked a local police station with Molotov cocktails. More than a dozen people were overcome with fumes in the incident, Le Figaro reported.

A primary school was also damaged during the clashes, BFMTV said.

Laurent Jacobelli, a member of  France's Arise party, appeared to somewhat defend the police's actions, telling RT "policemen are in a very difficult situation right now in France."

"The government has cut the police budget and fewer police have to fight against [growing] insecurity. I would like to underline that the case [of the alleged rape] is very exceptional. In the suburbs of Paris and other big cities in France, there are areas where the French laws do not longer apply, and it's very difficult to maintain safety for the French citizens in these areas," Jacobelli said.

"This one incident is absolutely horrendous and it's very understandable that people who just want to have a peaceful life and who might live in a neighborhood which is a little bit less fancy still have the right to be tranquil and they have been really assaulted in their heart," multiculturalism expert, Cecile le Roux told RT.