Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"Daily Humiliation"

From Le Colonel Chabert

Daily Humiliation

"Constantly stopped [for questioning and id] by the police." Of all the complaints made by the youth of this country in revolt, this omnipresent checking/questioning and the interruptions of their normal lives, this endless harassment, is the most constant and the most widely shared. Do we understand what this complaint really means? What kind of humiliation and violence it represents?

I have a 16 year old adopted son who is black. Let’s call him Gérard. No sociological or misérabiliste « explanations » can be applied to him. He grew up in Paris, well off. Between 31 March 2004 (Gérard wasn’t yet 15) and today, I can ‘t even count the number of times he’s been stopped by the police. Innumerable - there is no other word. Arrested: six times! In 18 months. What I mean by arrested is when you are taken, in handcuffs, to the police station, when you are insulted, latched to a bench, left there for hours, sometimes kept for a day or two. For nothing.

The worst elements of persecution are often in the details. I’ll tell you then, bstep by step, about the last arrest, the whole thing. Gérard, along with his friend Kemal (born in France, therefore French, from a Turkish family) at about four-thirty is outside a private high school (attended by young girls). While Gérard was flinging forth his gallantry, Kemal was negotiating the purchase of a bicycle from a student from a different school. Twenty euros, this bicycle, a bargain! Suspicious of course. We understand meanwhile that Kamal has a little money, not much, because he has a job: he works as assistant and apprentice at a crêperie. Three "petits jeunes" come up to them. One of them, with an air of being a little outraged, says "That’s my bicycle, a guy borrowed it from le an hour and a half ago and never gave it back." Yikes! The seller is, it seems, a "borrower." Dicussion ensues. Gérard sees only one solution: give the bike back. Ill gotten gains not worth it. Kemal agrees. The guys go off with the machine.

It is at this point that up to the curb, breaks squealing, pulls a police car. Two of its occupants leap out and jump on Gérard and Kemal, throw them to the ground, cuff their hands behind their backs, then put them against the wall. Insults and threats follow: "Enculés! Connards!" [both approximate to 'assholes', a bit nastier] Our two heros ask what they did; "You know very well! Turn around" -they have them all this time cuffed, facing people in the street - "so everyone can see who you are and what you did!" Return of the medieval pillory (half an hour exposed like this), but, the novelty is this was done before any judgment, even before any accusation. more


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