The following is a letter that was recently written to protesters in France . We are re-posting it here because the points being made in this letter are relevant to the struggle that has been unfolding in Seattle in the last week.
The letter that follows was written by Farid El Yamni, the brother of Wissam
El Yamni, murdered by the police in Paris, France on New Year’s Day 2012,
and is addressed to the mother of Rémi Fraisse, murdered by police during a
protest in France on October 31st of this year. He wanted it to be made
public, but the letter has also been sent to her house.
Replace Rémi with Mike Brown and it’s just as relevant, it’s the same
November 3rd, 2014
I write to you at a time where in Paris violent demonstrations are condemned
and peaceful sit-ins praised.
I lost my brother in very similar conditions to those in which you lost your
son. My brother, who took such good care of my mother, has left us, he’s
never coming back. The loss of my brother was immensely painful, and I feel
that same pain every time the State kills another person. “Within danger,
lies that which can save us,” someone once said. Every time the State
kills, we also have the opportunity to stop it, to force it to change, and to
give others back their lost dignity.
Rémi’s death is knotted up in much more than the story of a life, it’s
all of our lives, individually and collectively. The criminalization which
has been put into place is horrible, it was the same thing for our family. I
understood later that it was on purpose. I only wanted one thing, that the
justice system find the truth, and give my brother the dignity that he
deserved, in an atmosphere of calm, and that this story help everyone, all of
us, the governed, to better love ourselves and for the police to reconcile
with the people. I didn’t think it was possible that the police could
accept murderers into their ranks. I didn’t know enough at the time. I was
wrong. The neighborhoods burned, we called for calm: every car and every
dumpster set on fire lived as an insult, as a thorn through the heart, a
thorn that was being pushed in.
Then time passed, they promised us the truth, but we only got lies, only
false promises, like so many before us. People warned us, but we didn’t
believe them. François Hollande (French President) himself, took my mother
in his arms and promised her that he would help to shed light on the
circumstances of her son’ s death. We were suffocating and calling for the
justice system to help us.
And then we understood that this was not an isolated case, that so many other
families had lived and were living the same pain. There are so many
humiliations and mutilations consciously committed by the police and covered
up by the justice system, so many!
We also discovered the way that the police think, and it gives me chills up
my spine. For example, last Wednesday during a demonstration in Paris, a
police officer told me “1-0” in front of his work-mates, who were all
laughing when they saw my t-shirt slogan, “Watch Out, Our Police Kill.”
Not a single one of them contradicted him. Examples like this, so many people
live them daily, they can’t stand the police any more and they can’t see
any end in sight.
I understand the call for calm, we made them too. Please understand also that
many people don’t believe in this system anymore, this system that gives de
facto impunity to the police. Please understand that we can only think in
terms of non-violence when we imagine that the opposing camp is capable of
putting themselves into question. In this case they are humanly incapable,
because they consider that questioning the existence of the police, is
questioning the existence of the State. For the past 40 years, the police
kill with impunity, over and over. For the past 40 years, we help the same
process to obscure the murders committed by the State, despite the videos,
the testimony, the evidence. For the past 40 years, there have been sit-ins,
demonstrations, books, politicians posturing, and court cases at the highest
level. For 40 years, nothing has worked.
This is how it works: contradicting articles in the press, lies from the
prosecutor, badly conducted and biased investigation that will end in a
ridiculous and token conviction after several months or years, or even in an
acquittal. The worst part is that those that will bury the matter will get
promotions, and those who killed our brothers, or sons, or our friends, they
will be treated like heroes by their colleagues. This is the reality that you
will live as well.
Manuel Valls (French Prime Minister) said that the violent reactions are
“insults to Rémi’s memory,” but know that Valls, by his inaction to
confront police impunity, it the most guilty of your son’s murder. He is a
repeat offender. He came to our city a week before the release of the second
botched autopsy (of which he already knew the details), and he only spoke of
the affair to better condemn the violence of those who were moved to revolt
by my brother’s death.
Ma’m, Sir, people are fighting for Rémi, for their dignity and for their
ideals. They are fighting for you, for all of us, for solidarity to be
effective. Those who are are fighting know enough about the maliciousness of
those who govern to understand that they, the rulers are trying to make us
believe that we are in a State that respects rights, when we are in a State
that only respects duty. The State doesn’t respect the laws that they ask
us to follow. It plays with our lives, our bodies, our trust, our money and
our dignity. It asks us to be always on our knees, that’s unquestionable
I have written this letter to you, as to all those who will read it, to let
you know that I understand today more than ever how much non-violence has its limits in situations of crimes of the State. Non-violence, by it’s
powerlessness, is sometimes more condemnable, more murderous than violence itself. Those who govern us are malicious, sadistic, opportunistic, repeat offenders. They should be made to leave by any means necessary.
Farid El Yamni, brother of Wissam El Yamni,
murdered by the police January 1st 2012 in Clermont Ferrand.