French-Algerian actress causes storm with comments about 'systemic racism' in French police

AFP/The Local
AFP/The Local - [email protected] • 25 May, 2020 Updated Mon 25 May 2020 08:17 CEST
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A French-Algerian actress' claims of systemic police racism have sparked a storm in France, reigniting the debate on police violence.


Camelia Jordana, who was born in France to Algerian parents, had said in a talk show on Sunday that people "get massacred" by the police in the Paris suburbs simply due to the colour of their skin.

Her comments were condemned by police unions and the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, who said her comments were "deceitful and shameful".

Jordana, 27, who rose to fame as a singer, has appeared in a dozen films and won the prestigious Cesar award for most promising actress for her role on the 2017 comedy "Le Brio".

Jordana had said that men and women who work in the suburbs "get massacred for no other reason than the colour of their skin. It's a fact".

"There are thousands of people who do not feel safe in front of a policeman.

"And I am one of them," she added.

READ ALSO Why France is being forced to have a conversation about police violence



Camelia Jordana was born in France to Algerian parents. Photo: AFP

Writing on Twitter, Castaner denied that this was the case and said: "These deceitful and shameful statements feed hatred and violence. They merit unmitigated condemnation."

The French police union Alliance said in a statement that Jordana had made "unacceptable accusations against the police" and added it was filing a complaint with prosecutors.

But anti-racism group SOS Racisme said in a statement it backed the "analysis" made by the actress.

"We regret that the interior minister, by placing the emphasis on the use of the term 'massacre', decided it was useful to condemn the statements by Camelia Jordana," it said.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Photo: AFP

"This attitude - shared by several police unions - is symptomatic of the impossibility in our country of dealing with the unfortunately real subject of racism within the police force," said Dominique Sopo, the president of SOS Racisme.

The issue of violence and racism within the police is an extremely sensitive one in France, where activists claim that police officers - particularly those who work in the low-income suburbs - have a history of violence.

Police unions and authorities say these are isolated incidents and not indicative of a culture within the police.

Tensions flared between police and locals in the Paris suburbs during the lockdown in April after a motorcyclist was seriously hurt during a police stop. There followed several nights of running battles with police in which a school was torched.

There was more trouble earlier in May in the Paris suburb of Argenteuil after an 18-year-old motorcyclist died in a collision with a police car.

At the end of April an investigation was launched after a Paris police office was caught on camera making what appeared to be racist comments during an arrest.

Police violence became a major part of the 'yellow vest' protests when officers were accused of being heavy handed in policing the protests, although many police officers were also injured during the months of weekly demonstrations. 

READ ALSO Is the punching of a Paris protester a one-off or part of a wider problem with French policing?





AFP/The Local 2020/05/25 08:17

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[email protected] 2020/05/26 08:28
Racism in France is deeply entrenched. It will never be managed and reduced if the French cannot admit that it exists. A bit like their history in North Africa, far too many are in complete denial about this issue which allows it to persist at all levels of society.
[email protected] 2020/05/25 14:32
This would be better addressed by asking the government what sort of programs are in place for police training in race relations/cultual awareness. It would be more measurable and show that the police/government cares. Instead both sides start shouting matches. Adrenaline rush with no lasting changes. Just angry people on both sides. Sigh.
[email protected] 2020/05/25 11:00
Calling her an actress is stretching it a bit.

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