Weeklong protests erupted in France after a 22-year-old Black man charged that police officers beat and sodomized him during an arrest Feb 2.
Simply identified as Theo, the youth worker was on his way to meet some friends when cops doing I.D. checks stopped him. According to CNN, the officers reportedly forced Theo to the ground, beat him and then one sodomized him with an expandable baton.
“I saw one of them take his baton and stick it into my bum,” Theo told France’s BFM television channel. “As soon as he did that, I fell on my belly. I felt weak. It was as if my body had given up on me.”
Theo claims that the officers then told him to sit down but when he couldn’t because of his injuries, he was tear-gassed, punched, beat in the genitals, spat on and called racial slurs. He suffered head trauma, as well as a 4-inch lesion in his anal canal that required surgery.
The four officers were immediately suspended and charged, one with rape. Police investigating the incident however announced that it was an accident and that Theo’s pants fell down on their own.
In response to the news of the assault, hundreds took to the streets and social media using the hashtag #JusticePourTheo. Many have labeled the assault as racist in nature.
Although most protests have been peaceful, some have turned violent with arson, rioting, vehicles set on fire, projectiles thrown at police and multiple arrests.
Officers have responded with tear gas. They also had to intervene and rescue a child trapped in a burning vehicle during one riot, the Paris police said in a statement.
Theo, though, has called for peace from his hospital bed.
“I call to calm my city because I love it very much,” he said. “Violence is not the way to support me. Justice will do its job.”