In the fight led by Awa Gueye, along with the collective ‘Justice and Truth for Babacar’, some new judicial aspects make it possible to start legal proceedings against those responsible for Babacar’s death. We [the collective] are calling for a march to honour his memory and to support this battle.
The History of Babacar Gueye
During the night of 2nd to 3rd of December 2015 in Maurepas, a poor neighbourhood of Rennes, Babacar Gueye, a 27 year-old Sengalese man without papers, suffered an anxiety attack and cut himself with a table knife. His friend called an ambulance. It wasn’t paramedics but 8 police officers, of whom 4 were from the Brigade Anti-Criminalite (BAC) [a specialist division of the French police, whose remit is public disorder in poor neighbourhoods], who came upstairs in the building. One of the policemen in this squad shot at and hit Babacar 5 times. He died in handcuffs at the end of an agonising period of one hour.
On the same day, the judicial machinery geared up to exculpate the policemen, and to make Babacar responsible for his own death. The police witnesses, to a man, protected the murderer. They justified the shots by describing Babacar as a particularly aggressive deranged man and, although his death had been announced a few hours earlier, they pressed charges against him for “attempted murder of a person in public office”.
On the very same 3rd December, an autopsy was carried out on Babacar’s body to check for the presence of narcotics. At the same time, his older sister Awa Gueye was discharged from hospital after an episode brought on by the news of her younger brother’s death. She went to the police station to ask where he could be found. In response to this, the policemen thrust under her nose a photo of the deceased and started blackmailing her: they demanded Babacar’s identity card, without which they refused to tell her where her brother’s body was. She accepted this, so the policemen accompanied her to her house. At the threshold they put on gloves and came in without warning; they started ransacking Babacar’s bedroom, with neither warrant nor authorisation. They took away papers, French lessons and his medical documents. The few items they found could not support the theory that Babacar was under the influence of drugs. Despite this, they described him as a dangerous madman whom they had had no other choice but to kill.
Why did Babacar die?
The circumstances of Babacar’s death and the judicial response which followed his murder raise a number of questions.
When Babacar called for help, why was it the police who intervened and not the ambulance service? Why did he need to be restrained? If he had to be, why shoot at him?
While the squad specialising in “high risk interventions” was making the initial contact with Babacar, the paramedics were waiting at the bottom of the building. We can therefore legitimately question whether residents of Maurepas who call an ambulance are seen as patients or as violent thugs. The police arrive at the flat armed with truncheons, tasers and firearms. Are they there to help a person in distress, or stake out a den of criminals?
At the time of his anxiety attack, Babacar speaks in Wolof, his mother tongue, which the police describe as incoherent aggressive raving. Are they scared of Babacar? Babacar in his pants, armed only with a table knife, alone against 8 trained and armed police officers – does he represent some kind of threat? Would they have restrained and shot at him if his mother tongue had been French?
Babacar is black. When we see how the police arrest black people – like the recent revealing examples: from the rape of Theo Luhaka, to the violence towards a civil servant in Sevran, not forgetting the shooting of someone without papers in Rennes – we’re right to question the motivation which pushes them to use force. In Babacar’s case, those who helped his murderer believed in the threat he posed. They didn’t hesitate to announce, even before the toxicology report (which turned out to be negative) came back, “It is probable he had taken a synthetic drug which multiplies your strength and allows you not to feel pain”. In the eyes of the police, is Babacar seen as a person in distress or as a wild animal?
Having shot at him 5 times, the police officers handcuffed him on the ground at the turn of the stairs.
The sequence of these actions – a consequence of the racist policing practices of armed cops intervening in a poor neighbourhood – led to this murder.
Babacar died as a result of Negrophobia and of xenophobic institutions and their xenophobic agents.
Awa Gueye’s battle
On 6th July 2016, at the high court of Rennes, according to the matching opinion of the judiciary police and the IGPN Inspection Générale de la Police Nationale – the General Inspectorate of the National Police], the public prosecutor closed the case without further action on the grounds that the shooter was in “a position of legitimate [self-]defence”.
We could have left it at that without the determined fight led by Awa Gueye. Despite numerous obstacles put up by the judicial institution, in 2017 she managed to file a civil action suit and to file a complaint against her brother’s murderer. At the beginning of 2019, she acquired the results from a ballistics expert [report]. We discovered in it, first of all, that the pieces of evidence – the weapon used in the crime and the two [gun] magazines – were accidentally destroyed (!) during a sorting of the seals [the French justice system places evidence of crimes or offences under a judicial seal]. Next up, we discovered that the 5 bullets were not fired from the front; one of them even went through one of [Babacar’s] bum cheeks. Thus it becomes difficult for the police, the investigators or the prosecutor to make use of “legitimate self-defence” to justify the actions of the murderer. Said person, by the way, still hasn’t been charged with homicide. He has been transferred to St-Brieuc, and has been neither dismissed, nor disarmed, and he is not even worried, since he has been given the status of ‘assisted witness’. [Has access to all the documents in the ongoing legal inquiry. Knows all new elements throughout the case.]
These legal advances are the fruit of several years of fights articulating a battle against the police and legal institutions, a political battle with the families of victims, and a battle for [honouring] memory. So that Babacar’s death doesn’t stay as an unimportant anecdote in a newspaper column. Whether it be in the media, in the streets of Rennes or elsewhere, wherever other sisters fight to know the truth about the death of their brothers murdered by the forces of the law, our presence with Awa as the Collective for Justice and Truth for Babacar is one of the ways of putting on pressure, necessary so that answers can be given to the numerous questions we ask ourselves. Answers are necessary so that the truth can be found about Babacar’s death. Necessary so that one day racist and Negrophobic crimes will no longer be able to happen. Necessary so that the crimes of the police and all those who protect them will no longer remain unpunished.
7th December 2019: a march for justice and truth
On Saturday 7th December, we will be marching in Maurepas to mark the 4th anniversary of Babacar’s death and to push for our demands.
We want to bring charges on those responsible for Babacar’s death. We demand a public re-creation, bringing together everyone who was present on the night of the murder. We want to forbid the use of war weapons in the management of law enforcement in our neighbourhoods and our protests: from firearms to grenades, LBDs [rubber bullet guns], and tasers. We want to protect and save our lives by prohibiting [use of] fatal immobilisation techniques and by the disarming of forces of the law.
We will be marching with Awa to honour the memory of her little brother, to demand the truth, and so that justice can be done. We will march for all the other victims of police violence: Amine, Zakaria, Ali, Adama, Angelo, Henry, Zyed, Bouna, Gaye, Morad, Zineb, Steve, Aboubacar, Selom, Matisse, Baptiste, Abdoulaye, Abou, Lamine, Liu, Wissam, Fathi, Adam, Allan… For everyone.
No justice, no peace.