Thousands marched against racism and for George Floyd and Adama Traoré in Paris on 2 June. Traoré's family has been calling for justice in the case of the death of 24-year-old Adama Traoré since 2016.
Over 20,000 people gathered in Paris on 2 June to march against racism. They demanded justice for George Floyd, an American black man who died after being forcefully immobilised by police officers in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020, and Adama Traoré, a French black man who died in custody in Persan, France, on 19 July 2016.
Traoré's family have been organising and demanding justice ever since the 24-year-old's death.
Adama Traoré's death
When Adama Traoré and his brother Bagui were stopped by the police in Beaumont-sur-Oise on that summer day in 2016 for what they were told was an ID check, Bagui, who the police were looking for, didn't move. Adama ran away. He did not have his ID on him and therefore risked an arrest, his family later explained.
Police caught up and arrested him. Adama Traoré died two hours later, in custody at the Persan police station.
No footage of his arrest exists and there were no witnesses; the only available information on Adama's death comes from the testimonies of the three officers who stopped him and several medical autopsies.
In the four years since his death, Traoré's family members have repeatedly claimed that police officers had tackled him to the ground. The officers deny using a tackling technique. At the time of the events, however, one of them declared to investigators: "We used necessary force to control him, but he took the weight of all our bodies."
Traoré's death, like that of teenagers Zyed and Bouna in 2005, sparked days of unrest in the Paris suburbs, with residents demanding explanations for his death and protesting against brutal police tactics.
It has since become a symbol of police violence in France and has been at the heart of a judicial battle in which several autopsies and counter-autopsies have contradicted each other.
His brother Bagui was imprisoned in 2018 after being charged for "attempted murder of a police officer", for alleged violence during the uprising in the days that followed Adama's death.
The Traoré family, in particular Adama's sister Assa Traoré, has formed a committee called "Truth for Adama" and has been denouncing police violence since 2016.
A medical examiner who did the autopsy in 2016 could not identify the "immediate cause" of death; instead noting a "suffocation syndrome" and "infectious-looking wounds" in the lungs and liver.
At the time, as several days of unrest ensued, the Pontoise prosecutor mentioned a "very serious infection" in "several organs" as a reason for his death, without speaking of asphyxia.
But a week later, a counter-autopsy dismissed the infection reason and confirmed that of the "suffocation syndrome". As the prosecutor was criticised and accused of lying, the Traoré family started to launch their own movement.
In the four years that have passed since, six autopsies and counter-autopsies have been commissioned by both sides. The cause of Adama Traoré's death has never been definitely determined: the autopsies commissioned by the prosecutor's office have concluded there were pre-existing symptoms, while those requested by the family have concluded there was "asphyxia due to the position" (here, a police tackle).
Most recently, two contradictory expert assessments have been published in the past few weeks.
On 29 May 2020, a legal assessment conducted by three doctors concluded that Traoré died of a "cardiogenic oedema" and not of asphyxia: stress, physical effort and a "high concentration" of cannabis caused the death, they said.
Four days later, the Traoré family published the results of a new, private expert assessment conducted by a cardiologist who concluded that the oedema was due to "asphyxia caused by the position by a ventral tackle". (The police still deny using this tactic on Adama Traoré.)
In a statement, the "Truth for Adama" committee said that they did not understand why the legal assessment had been conducted by doctors who were not experts in cardiology and declared they would seize France's Order of Medicine Council to contest "these experts who violated elementary rules of medical deontology".
Assa Traoré's fight
Assa Traoré, Adama's sister who has become the movement's leader and spokesperson, said in a video alongside the statement that she condemned the "racist" legal assessment, which, she said, "dares describing my brother on paper as a 'individual of black race'". (In French, the word "race" has colonial undertones.)
In the same post, she called for the march in Paris on 2 June, in which 20,000 gathered in support for the Traoré family and to protest against racism.
Assa Traoré addressed the marchers. "Today, this is no longer the Traoré family's fight, this is everyone's fight," she said. "When you fight for George Floyd, you fight for Adama Traoré."
She has called for the police officers who arrested her brother to be charged. "We demand justice," she said, quoting what has become the Truth for Adama committee's motto: "Without justice, you'll never have peace."
After the Paris march, and as she promised to continue the fight and to organise more gatherings, Assa Traoré reflected on the loss of her brother on Instagram.
"The crowd chanted your name, Adama," she wrote.