Max Foster’s biased coverage of police brutality against immigrant women in France

Wow. If one needed evidence that the struggle for immigrant justice is global, see this video of an eviction in France, where French police dragged immigrant mothers and children in the streets (possible trigger warning):

Transcript after the jump.

There is no doubt that being evicted can be a horrible event. But being dragged in the streets with your baby on your back? Being dragged while you are obviously in the third trimester of your pregnancy? And then, if this act of brutality is not enough, the commentator Max Foster editorializes in a way that adds insult to injury.:

We want to make very clear that in showing this we are not accusing the police of racism. We are not implying that they used excessive force. Several people who saw this video questioned why mothers would have infant children on their backs in such a protest. This is simply an example of the difficulty one region faces in dealing with their migrant community.

How is it that after watching such a brutal attack, this journalist is imminently responsive to the needs of the police in not being characterized as racist and not these mothers and children? Then, in a totally un-journalistic move, Foster adds in a comment from “several” unmentioned people that imply that these women are to blame for the violence brought on their bodies by police.

Anyone who knows anything about the culture in Cote d’ivoire and many West African countries knows that babies are routinely carried on the backs of their mothers and wrapped with cloth. And further, reports indicate that these women were living in the street since being evicted from their council homes on July 8. How are women who are living on the streets supposed to pay for child care??

It is just disgusting and despicable to dismiss this tragic event as “simply an example of the difficulty in dealing with… a migrant community” as if violence against women should be an acceptable fact of housing negotiations. Despite attempts to dehumanize these women and children with violence and the statement from the Bobigny Police commissioner that refers to one of the dragged children as an “it,” immigrants are people too. These immigrants are people who should be able to negotiate safe living conditions  for themselves and their children without police brutality. These immigrants are people who deserve human dignity and respect.

Transcript was as follows:

Some video emerging that we want to bring you. It demonstrates what can happen when a basic need of an immigrant community, such as shelter, clashes with the need of a state to maintain order.

And I have to warn you, I have yet to see someone watch this video and not react in some shock. It occurred about a week ago when police in a northeastern suburb of Paris tried to evict a group of squatters from a housing project scheduled for demolition. Take a look.


FOSTER: We are told that most of the demonstrators are from Ivory Coast. We want to make it very clear in showing this we are not accusing the police of racism, we are not implying that they used excessive force. Several people who saw this video questioned why mothers would have infants, children on their backs in such a protest. This is simply an example of the difficulty one region faces in dealing with its migrant community.

Now, in fact, French authorities have offered the protesters temporary accommodation in hotel rooms whilst their cases were evaluated. The video was shot by the group Right to Housing. I talked a short time ago with spokesman Michael Hoare and began by asking him what had led up to those pictures you saw at the demonstration.


MICHAEL HOARE, RIGHT TO HOUSING (via telephone): What led up to this was the police and the prefect of the Seine-Saint-Denis had decided to use force to clear the people out of their campsite, which was just in front of the building, which they’d been evacuated from.

The images themselves were taken by a militant of Droit au Logement, and he had the camera, and was taking pictures from within what was happening, from within the group. And a policeman came up — the police had already evacuated the other journalists who were around. There was one photographer from the newspaper “Humanity,” she got escorted out. And another camera had been taken away.

And the policemen sort of got hold of this camera and just sort of tore off the LCD screen. So, in fact, once that happened, the images stop. But before that happened, he was able to fill this close-up footage.

FOSTER: And before we talk about the footage, just explain to me why these protesters hadn’t taken up the offer of alternative accommodation and would rather sit in the street.

HOARE: Well, the offer of alternative accommodation was very, very short-term. The first offer they had was just for three nights in a hotel. Then that got extended to 12 nights in a hotel. And they wanted some kind of guarantee or some kind of promise on the part of the authorities, be it the municipality or the prefect, or the region. That they would wind up being re-housed. And, of course, this wasn’t forthcoming. And so they decided to stay until they could a little bit more than just 12 nights in a hotel.

FOSTER: OK, just explain where these people were from originally. Was it a mixed group, or are they from a particular community?

HOARE: No, most of them are from the Ivory Coast. Most of them have been in France for a period of three to ten years. Some of them have papers, some of them don’t have papers. They have submitted demands and requests to have — to be legalized. But those are the — that’s the situation of the families who are there.

FOSTER: And where are they now? What’s happened to them?

HOARE: Well, they have accepted — because the experience was so traumatic, they ended up accepting the offer of the prefecture to go into the hotels. There’s a meeting going on right at the moment in the Seine- Saint-Denis about what’s the future, and what kind of program is going to be opened up so that some kind of options for re-housing can appear. But that’s very much up in the air at the moment.


FOSTER: Well, after speaking with Michael Hoare, we did receive a statement from the police commissioner there. He acknowledged that an eviction is never a simple procedure when there is resistance.

And regarding that disturbing video of a baby being dragged, he adds, “The officers weren’t able to dislodge her by pulling on her arms because her arms were linked with people on both sides. Therefore, they moved her by pulling on her legs. Within a meter or so, the baby is dislodged, and it becomes apparent to another officer, who immediately picks it up.”

Join the Conversation

  • Lisa

    Not implying police racism… What else would you call it? If it was white women, they would not have gotten the crap beat out of them. Their children would not have been harmed. They would have been seen as protesting unfair conditions. However since the women are black, the police were dealing with an “migrant problem.” The reporter failed to do his job and call this what it is. It is racism and police brutality. There is no way to get around that fact… unless you are this reporter apparently. This video, both the footage and the interview, is beyond disgusting. It is sick how these women were treated and are being treated by the authorities.

  • Monika

    Obviously there was racism in this video! This makes me so angry at France. I live in Paris, and I am really tired of the blatant racism and the absolute denial of it. Whenever I point out racism people tell me that I’m seeing it through an American lens, that racism is an American thing and I should read a history book. I got the same bullshit when I lived in Germany. People here are so comfortable pointing to the U.S. and saying “THEY are the racists ones, not US!” while the immigrant communities here are being abused and ignored. The vast majority of the people here do nothing to combat racism because they refuse to believe that it’s even a problem. Forget the veil ban in France, forget the minaret ban in Switzerland, forget that many white Germans refer to Germans of Turkish descent as “döner men” and make fun of the Turkish accent (despite the fact that there is no German as a second language program in public school system, relegating immigrants to the lowest socioeconomic classes), and that here in France women and black people in the government are constantly accused of getting their posts due to the token diversity they provide, the people would rather ignore it than deal with it.

    Obviously not all of France is this way, but I tend to travel in pretty educated circles, and I see blatant racism being brushed off as nothing, or as me misunderstanding French culture all the time, and I am seriously tired of it.