This article from the January 2015 print issue was published before the killing of twelve people at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
SARAH OUSSEKINE REMEMBERS very well the morning of 6 December 1986. She was getting ready for her first day on a new job when she heard on the radio that a student had been killed in Paris the previous night, at a protest in the city’s Latin Quarter against proposed university reforms. “I had no idea then that they were talking of my brother,” Oussekine told me when we met in early October. “He was at a jazz club, not the protest.”
Sarah’s brother, Malik, was twenty-two years old. As it later transpired, he had left a club shortly after midnight, and been chased and beaten unconscious by two motorcycle-mounted officers from a unit sent in to break up the demonstration. An ambulance eventually took him to a hospital, where he died within a few hours. Outrage followed: 400,000 people attended Malik’s funeral, protests against the killing shook all of France, motorbike police squads were disbanded and the proposed reforms binned.