By Jean Beaman
August 18, 2020
On July 19, 2016, Adama Traore, a 24-year-old Black construction worker, was killed after an arrest by three police officers in Beaumont-sur-Oise, a northern banlieue, or suburban outskirt, of Paris. Adama was stopped for an identity check—a not uncommon measure by which police officers stop individuals and ask for their identification (often disproportionately targeting Black and Arab individuals). In this case, Adama was taken to a nearby police station and by the time he arrived, he was dead. The police originally stated that he had died of a heart attack, and then said he had prior health conditions which caused his death. In late May, the three police officers were cleared in their involvement for Adama’s death.
Assa Traore is Adama’s 35-year-old sister and is leading the movement for justice for her brother and other victims of police violence through the collectif, Comité Vérité et Justice pour Adama. On June 2, 2020, more than 20,000 protestors demonstrated outside of the High Court in Paris (in defiance of France’s quarantine-related prohibition of gatherings larger than 10 people). As this demonstration was a mere week after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, many assumed that this demonstration was just like any of the other protests throughout the United States (and the world) in the aftermath of this death. However, what activists in Paris and elsewhere in France are doing is making a direct connection between the police violence and injustice facing Black Americans with the long-standing police violence and injustice facing Black and Arab individuals in France, and around the world. Simply put, as both Adama and George’s last words revealed, neither of them could breathe.
“Justice pour Adama, Justice pour George Floyd, Justice pour Tous!” or “Justice for Adama, Justice for George Floyd, Justice for everyone,” protest signs read. Adama and George’s deaths are connected, and so too are the anti-racist protests.