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Paris Unrest Persists After Police Are Accused Of Brutalizing Black Man

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to a story with some content some listeners might find difficult. The residents of Paris' northern suburbs have been protesting the alleged rape 10 days ago of a young black man by police. Jake Cigainero reports that over the weekend one of the largest protests turned violent.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting, unintelligible).

JAKE CIGAINERO, BYLINE: Two thousand protesters gathered outside the Bobigny courthouse in the Paris suburb Saturday shouting justice for Theo. The scene quickly unraveled into yet another night of chaos. Riots began a week ago when Theo, a 22-year-old black man whose last name is being withheld, accused police officers of beating and raping him with a baton. It happened during an ID check at a cite, one of France's vast public housing projects outside Paris.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Booing).

CIGAINERO: Rioters clashed with police and set fire to trash cans, cars and a nursery school. In one harrowing incident, a 16-year-old boy pulled a little girl from a burning vehicle. Four officers have been charged and suspended. They deny the allegations. Investigators downplayed the rape, calling it an accident. Theo's doctor reported a four-inch wound.

THEO: (Speaking French).

CIGAINERO: Sedated in his hospital bed, Theo mumbled an appeal for peace with President Francois Hollande by his side. No war with police, he says, stay united and trust the justice system. But the riots have spread to neighboring working class areas that police describe as ghettos, where the population is mostly minorities, unemployment is high and drug trafficking is commonplace. Still, the violence is much less than the 2005 riots in the same neighborhoods. Those put France in a state of emergency.

Racial tensions in France have run high since last summer after a young black man died in police custody. French investigators ruled that man's death also an accident. His family and supporters are still calling for justice. For NPR News, I'm Jake Cigainero in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.