A Glimpse of the World: Let’s talk about Théo

People hold a portrait picture of Adama Traore as they attend a white march organised in tribute to the 24-year old man in Beaumont-sur-Oise on July 22, 2016. Violence erupted in the northern suburbs of Paris for a third night in a row on July 21, 2016, with 15 cars set ablaze by residents furious over the death of a young man in police custody. The unrest began on July 19 after it emerged that Adama Traore, 24, had died shortly after being arrested in the town of Beaumont-sur-Oise. Authorities said an autopsy revealed he was suffering from a serious infection at the time of his death and that his body showed few signs of violence. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON

When Théo left the house that afternoon, he did not anticipate it to be his last.

He was looking forward to seeing his friends. Excited to just chat and hang out, talk the world and everything under the sun. Maybe they’d play video games or listen to music – watch TV. They’d talk about lovers, mothers and jobs – just, relax in good company.

So Théo did the usual thing: put on shoes, grabbed a jacket, stepped out of the house, locked the door, checked his phone, started walking …

Théo did not plan to survive the police that day. Neither did he prepare for devastating pain, severe wounds and humiliation.

His destination wasn’t far away. Théo knows his neighbourhood – Aulnay-sous-Bois is what he calls home. It is where he grew up and where he now works as a youth worker. A lot of garbage fills the streets. Théo passes a run-down playground on his way. There are Asian and African supermarkets that only sell products from the two continents, but smell like nothing more than home to its by passers. Music blasts from many corners of the high-rise buildings and peeking through a ground floor window, Théo sees a pair of twin girls, shaking their kinky hair and dark-brown skinned bodies to a Bollywood dance on a TV screen.

When Théo saw the police officer slapping a kid on the street a little further down his way he didn’t hesitate, but interfered. In France young Black and Arab men often become subjects of random check and face disproportionate violence and harassment and humiliation by the police.

They left the teenager alone, but took Théo around the corner into a dead-end alleyway, where no video cameras could see.

It is there that Théo was handcuffed, verbally harassed, spat on and beaten until he fell on the ground. Insulted by four, raped by one, the officer forced his baton into Théo, while the other officers held him down and watched. Théo was then ordered to sit up, but he couldn’t; his body had gone numb.

They took Théo to the car to drive him to the station. Théo could only walk because the officers held on to him tightly, he recalled.

“I thought I’d die”, the young man later stated.

But the violence did not stop in the vehicle, as the police confronted him with more beatings and racial slurs.

At the station an officer decided to call an ambulance.

Théo needed surgery immediately.

It was this call that saved Théo’s life. That decision that allowed Théo to live to tell his story and fight for racial equality in France. It is the distinction made between Théo, a victim that lived and 10 to 15 young Black and Arab men who don’t survive their encounter with police each year.

Still on his sickbed, Théo speaks a message of unity and piece, calling for an end of the fights between the protesters and French authorities that up roared in Paris’ streets since Théo ’s rape gained social media attention.

Justice for Théo is the next big name after Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old Black man, who lost his life to the police a year earlier, which caused major protests in France.  Théo is just one of many cases of of police brutality victims – Y-stop.org and the BlackLivesMatterUK are organisations in Scotland that provide essential information and support for survivors and their families and work hard to prevent violent incidences in the future.