This week I had yet another bizarre Strasbourg experience, which led to me talking to the French police about Troy Davis.
Troy Davis is a man who was recently executed by the state of Georgia for the murder of Mark McPhail. I say executed, as he was an innocent man it would be more accurate to say he was murdered. Troy was convicted primarily on the evidence of nine witnesses; seven of which have since recanted their statements, some saying they were coerced into signing them. I won’t give you all the details here, but check out this link if you want to find out more…
As a member of Amnesty International I have protested about this issue before and to be honest I was feeling a little bit frustrated being in Strasbourg without a group to organise something with. However, someone I know here suggested we do something as there is a US Consulate. Literally organised only a few hours in advance, we didn’t manage to get many people together; so it was a wee bit of a surprise when the police came to speak to us! It was definitely a challenge for my not quite up-to-scratch French skills explaining not just why we were there, but also why we had the right to be there (a little ironic, as the European Court of Human Rights is in Strasbourg). I also managed to yet again struggle with the difference between the informal ‘tu’ form and the polite ‘vous’. Fortunately the policewoman was very understanding and didn’t take offence when I accidentally used ‘tu’.
After taking our details and talking to us for a bit, they went back to their car and left us (apart from the one point when a riot van menacingly slowed down as it drove past). I personally think it was ridiculous the amount of time they took to speak to us and the amount of information they took, when we were merely a few students protesting peacefully. Previously I believed it was only the UK and USA where liberties were being slowly eroded in the name of ‘security’; however it appears it is spreading to France, which I had thought to be a fairly liberal country. It’s sad that in trying to stop an innocent man from being executed, my name is now on a file somewhere as a trouble maker. It shows that we are all Troy Davis in some shape or form.
My thoughts, however, are ultimately with Troy’s family; who I hope can at least gain some strength from all the people around the world who have stood with them whilst fighting to save Troy. Justice may not have been done, but we can gain hope from the huge number of people who fought so passionately for it.