On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, the trial of a “Black Vest” activist was held in the 28th criminal chamber of the Paris Court of Justice. In a small room on the 6th floor in the glass building, a particularly boring, if not life-threatening, rehearsal took place. This room is that of the French justice system, that of proceedings without evidence, except for the statements of police officers and the absence of investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. A report.
Originally published by Acta Zone. Translated by Enough 14.
Police violence and words
On July 12, 2019, several hundred “Black Vests” (in French: Gilets Noirs, Enough 14) entered the Pantheon in Paris by surprise and occupied the building. They demanded the regularization of “all undocumented migrants and an appointment with Prime Minister Édouard Philippe” but also “housing for all”. The state’s response was not long awaited, as CRS vans quickly surrounded the building, then with extreme violence evicted the activists. Scenes of collective beatings were captured by the journalists present. Many activists ended up unconscious on the ground, under the laughing eyes of the police. Others were taken into police custody and calm was restored to the delight of the Prime Minister, who tweeted: “All those who entered the #Pantheon have been evacuated. France is a state governed by the rule of law, in all that this implies: respect for the rules that apply to the right of residence, respect for public monuments and the memory they represent.”
The day after this action, the “Black Vests” came to demonstrate for the release of their comrades locked up in the 5th arrondissement police station in Paris. It was during this demonstration of about fifty people, considered “hostile” by police officers, that the insults were allegedly committed by one of the activists, identified by three policemen.
“The police kills, the police is racist”
The activist was arrested on the way home on a bicycle and immediately taken into police custody. Three police officers filed a complaint against her for contempt of public authority. And that was it. From this hearing, it appears that the file is reduced to these elements. The mere statements of the police officers “in contempt” without any other elements were enough for a person to be brought in front of a judge.
The hearing of January 28, 2020 was almost embarrassing for the lawyer of the civil parties who was stammering a “violation of official duty” and asked 700 euros for each victim for this violation. It was even more embarrassing for the public prosecutor, who dismissed miscarriages of justice and lack of evidence to focus on one thing: insulting police officers is degrading the democratic state and widening the gap between the police and citizens – which could benefit the “extremes”.
The pleading of Me Alimi, the activist’s lawyer, highlighted several things. On one hand, the lack of evidence apart from the testimony of the victims. In a case where fingers of honour are evoked in front of a police station, no video was however extracted in the investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. No witness was heard.
In a report submitted to the Interior Ministry on December 20, 2014, the Inspectorate General of Administration (IGA) criticized the extensive use of lawyers, paid by the administration, in cases of insults and contempt of court. This is a real business that police officers are engaged in, confident in the response of a justice system concerned with protecting its police officers.
Well, we have seen it at the hearing. When Me Alimi was putting forward the idea that it can be said that the police are murdering in the light of recent events, and even more so that they are racist, it was the President who asked her to stop this “political” speech. And Mr Alimi added that these abusive procedures are degrading the state of democracy.
It is precisely this gratuitous beating of activists that widens the gap between the police and the citizens. It will take more than citizenship courses to make people forget about racism and the murders of French police officers.
The verdict will be decided on February 25, 2020.
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