France: Open letter to the mother of Rémi Fraisse

The following letter by Farid El Yamni – brother of Wissam, who was killed by police in 2012 – is addressed to the mother of Rémi Fraisse (21), murdered by police in the early hours of October 26th, 2014. Wissam El Yamni (30) was brutally assaulted by cops in Clermont-Ferrand on New Year’s Eve, before being taken into custody. He fell into a coma and died in hospital Monday, January 9th, 2012. His death sparked rioting and car-burnings. Farid wanted his text to be made public, but it will also be sent to Rémi’s parents.

November 3rd, 2014

I am writing this letter to you at a time when violent protests are condemned and peaceful sit-ins are praised in Paris.

I lost my brother in conditions quite similar to those in which you lost your son. My brother, who once took so much care of my mother, left us and will not return. The loss of my brother has caused me immense pain that I feel every time the State kills again. “Where the danger grows, grows also that which saves,” someone said. Each time the State kills it’s also an opportunity to put a halt to it, force it to change, and render the lost dignity to all the others.

Rémi’s death is tied to much more than the story of a life; it is tied to the lives of all of us, individually and collectively. The criminalization which occurred is terrible; it was the same thing for us. I realized later that it was deliberate. I only wanted one thing: that the Justice gets to the truth and renders the dignity that my brother deserved, in quiet, and that this story benefits everyone, us the governed in order to love each other better, as well as the police in order to reconcile itself with the nation. I thought the police could not accept murderers into its ranks, I didn’t know it enough at the time. I was wrong. Neighbourhoods were burned; we appealed for calm: every burned car or trash bin was perceived as an insult, like a thorn in the heart, a thorn pushed deeper into us.

Then time passed, we were promised the truth, but we were provided with nothing except lies, nothing except false promises, like many others before us. People warned us, but we did not believe them. François Hollande, himself, took my mother into his arms and promised he would help us shed light on the death of her son. Without justice and truth, we lived the passing time as a prison sentence. All this time we were in prison suffocating and appealing to the Justice for help.

And then we realized that our case was not isolated; so many other families experienced and are still experiencing the same thing. There are so many humiliations and mutilations committed consciously by the police and covered up by the Justice, so many of them!

We also discovered how the police think, it’s spine-chilling. Here’s an example: last Wednesday, following the demonstration in Paris, one of the police officers told me “1–0” in front of his colleagues at the police station, who giggled when they saw me wearing the t-shirt “Emergency Our Police Assassinate”. No one told him anything, no one… With examples of this kind, so many people in everyday life in France can no longer stand this police, nor see the end of it.

I understand the appeal for calm; we also did the same back then. You also have to understand that many people no longer believe in this system that gives de facto impunity to the police. You have to understand that nonviolence is conceivable only if you suppose that the opposite camp is capable of questioning itself: they are humanly incapable of it, because they consider that calling the police into question would mean to call the State into question. For 40 years, the police kill with impunity, repeatedly. For 40 years, we are witnessing the same method of whitewashing the murders of the State, despite the videos, the testimonies, the evidences. For 40 years, there are sit-ins, demonstrations, books, official statements by politicians, declarations addressed to the interior minister. For 40 years, it does not work.

Here’s how it goes: the AFP news agency delivers the breaking story, the prosecutor lies, a shoddy investigation is opened and summarized to result in a ridiculous conviction, or even a lack of conviction, after many years. The worst thing is that those who will bury the affair will be promoted and those who killed our brothers, our sons or friends will be treated as champions by their colleagues. This is the reality that you’re also about to experience.

Manuel Valls said that violence is insulting to the memory of Rémi, but know that Manuel Valls, through his inaction in combating police impunity, is the prime murderer of your son. He is not simply criminal, but recidivist. He came to Clermont-Ferrand one week prior to the bogus counter-autopsy report, of which he knew the wherefores, and he spoke of the case with intent to condemn the violence of those who revolted against the killing of my brother.

Madam, people are fighting for Rémi, for their dignity and for their ideals. They fight for you, for all of us, for the brotherliness to be effective. Those who fight are familiar enough with the malevolence of our governors to understand they’re trying to make us believe that we are living in a State based on law, whereas we are living in a State based on duty. The State does not respect the law it demands that we respect. It plays with our bodies, our confidence, our money and our dignity. It demands that we are on our knees, and this one is a categorical imperative.

I wrote this letter to you, and to all those who read my words, to let you know that today, more than ever, I understand how much nonviolence in affairs of state crimes has its limits. Because of its powerlessness, nonviolence at times is more condemnable, more deadly than violence itself. Those who govern us are malicious, arrivistes, sadists and recidivists. They have to be thrown out by any means necessary.

Farid El Yamni, brother of Wissam El Yamni, murdered by police on January 1st, 2012 in Clermont-Ferrand.