Protests against rampant police brutality occurred recently in the respective capitals of France and the United States -- two nations that proclaim strict fidelity to the rule of law yet two professed democracy-loving nations where officials routinely condone rampant lawlessness by law enforcers.
The 20th Anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March -- captioned "Justice Or Else" -- took place in Washington, DC with a core complaint being police brutality. During that protest rally held outside the U.S. Capitol building and along the National Mall relatives of police brutality victims were invited speakers. Those relatives included the father of Michael Brown, killed in August 2014 by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri and a sister of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas police station in the summer of 2015 following a flawed arrest for an alleged minor traffic violation.
On the same Saturday as the "Justice Or Else" rally in DC, protestors gathered outside the Garde de Nord train station in Paris to demonstrate against the death earlier this year of Amadou Koume. That 33-year-old father of three died during an encounter with police at a bar in Paris when he was put in a chokehold while being handcuffed. The Paris protestors demanded a judicial inquiry into the death of Koume, rejecting what they contend is a cover-up by police and prosecutors in Paris regarding the death of Koume.
While nearly 4,000-miles separate Washington, DC and Paris, the issue of police brutality connects the two fabled capitals through a chain of similarities surrounding police brutality like the fact that the principle targets of police brutality in France and across America are persons of color.
A September 1998 Amnesty International report on human rights violations in America stated "racial and ethnic minorities were disproportionally the victims of police misconduct including false arrests, harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse."
A 2005 Amnesty report on police brutality in France faulted police for racist abuses and racist motivations. Amnesty's reports on police brutality in France consistently note that the primary victims of police abuses in that country are "foreign nationals" predominately from Africa and the Caribbean or "French nationals" of foreign origins principally Africa and the Caribbean.
The day before those protest rallies in DC and Paris, National Basketball Association player Thabo Sefolosha won acquittal on charges of resisting arrest lodged by New York City police officers who earlier this year broke Sefolosha's leg during his arrest. Sefolosha, a non-white who missed this year's NBA playoffs due to that broken leg, said comments by the white New York City police officers that arrested him near a nightclub convinced him of racist motivation behind their assault.
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And similar to practices in France, police across America involved in unnecessary and/or fatal assaults are rarely held to account by prosecutors.
On the same Saturday as those respective protests in DC and Paris, prosecutors in Cleveland, Ohio released reports on the fatal police shooting of a 12-year-old black child in November 2014. Those three reports, requested by prosecutors, asserted the youth's fatal shooting was 'reasonable.' A white Cleveland policeman shot Tamir Rice two-seconds after encountering the youth who carrying a toy gun and then that officer (and his partner) refused to provide emergency aid to the critically wounded Rice who died hours later at a hospital.
Cleveland prosecutors have yet to charge the policeman with a checked past who shot Rice"a killing that was captured in chilling detail on surveillance video. However, Cleveland prosecutors and police have charged three persons for the fatal shootings of two children in separate September 2015 incidents.
Anti-abuse activists in America and France contend that the rightful arrests of civilian killers contrasted to rare arrests of police involved in unlawful killings underscore long-standing criticisms that police receive double standards of justice.
A 2009 Amnesty report on France entitled "Public Outrage: Police Officers Above the Law" stated prosecutors regularly close police brutality complaints after relying "heavily on the testimony of officers and without seeking further evidence." That report stated investigations by police officials and prosecutors into complaints of brutality and other human rights violations by police officers "are not always thorough or impartial."
In France, according to an Amnesty International report, 663 complaints for human rights violations were filed against police in 2005 producing just 96 findings of 'proven acts of violence' that resulted in the dismissal of 16 officers. That report stated convictions of French police for brutality are "relatively rare, or when they occurred, sentences have mainly been nominal."
A report published in the Washington Post early in 2015 documented that only 54 police officers in America have been charged with fatal shootings during the past decade despite almost 3,000 deaths during encounters with police. Of those 54 charged, only 11 were convicted.
A March 2015 U.S. Justice Department report on Ferguson, Missouri, stated "police supervisors and leadership do too little to ensure that officers act in accordance with law and policy, and rarely respond meaningfully to civilian complaints of officer misconduct." That report additionally stated that the practices of Ferguson's police and its local court system "reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias."
Ferguson is the city where the August 2014 police slaying of Michael Brown ignited the national movement against police brutality known as "Black Lives Matter."
The organization behind that Paris protest demanding justice in the death of Amadou Koume is known as Ferguson In Paris.
The "mechanical asphyxiation" death of Koume, according to the autopsy, is similar to the police caused deaths Lamine Dieng in Paris in June 2007 and Hakim Ajimi in Grasse, France in May 2008, according to members of Ferguson in Paris.
Two days before those DC and Paris rallies, police in Prairie View, Texas used a Taser on Jonathan Miller, a City Councilman in that city who was inquiring about police questioning a few of his friends outside of his home. Although Miller, an African-America, was not physically interfering with police, Prairie View officials contend Miller's failure to react quickly enough to police commands required use of the electric shock device.
Prairie View is the same city where the police station death of Sandra Bland -- a fatality ruled a jail cell suicide -- began with a vehicle stop by a police officer. That officer was reprimanded for improprieties arising from his abusive traffic enforcement encounter.
Linn Washington is a weekly columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune and This Can't Be Happening. Washington writes frequently on inequities in the criminal justice system, ills in society and failings of the news media. He teaches multi-media urban (more...