Book Review: Death of a Traveller by Didier Fassin

We’ve all heard of George Floyd and now more recently Andrew Brown, is yet another victim, killed at the hands of the police in America. The media frenzy has insured that these people become household names and that everyone is aware of the Police’s responsibility for their deaths. However, have you heard of Angelo Garand? No? Well that appears to be because of the lack of media publicity surrounding this case, where a man was shot by police in France in March 2017. This was only one of the several cases of murders committed by the police that year. Others had attracted a lot of public and media attention, resulting in protests and demonstrations in the streets of France. Perhaps that is why the media attention was curtailed to the bare minimum and only presented the authorities official side of the story.
This is principally why it is so important that this book be read. It presents a summarised, non biased account and investigation into the facts that occurred when Angelo Garand was “murdered” by French Police.

It is written by an accredited academic, who has been thoroughly through the police investigation, court hearings, prosecution and witness evidence. It is written well for understanding and allows the reader to come to their own conclusions.

Chapters are broken down into sections, which summarise the main protagonists’ versions of events. Equal weight is given to each and Fassin has managed to present a non-biased interpretation and summary of real witness evidence. The book is logically set out and deals with issues thoroughly and methodically. Using a socialistic background and context, legal and evidentiary issues concerning police, courts, public prosecutors and authorities, have been focused on, raised and highlighted.

The story of Angelo Garand, is that of a Traveller. An ethnic group which has always suffered discrimination from authority. Was it because of his ethnicity, that the man was hunted down by anti-terrorist police, for simply failing to return to prison after leave? Angelo died after being shot five times in the chest and once in the head. He was hiding in his family’s barn, unarmed, when armed police raided the farm, rounded up his family, and arguably gunned him down in cold blood. The family saw the police enter the barn and then heard gunfire. The police say they entered the barn and were under attack, using all deterrents available to them first, before they fired their weapons. This is where the story becomes contentious.

The police say that they reacted properly and in legitimate self defence, when on the contrary all of the family who witnessed the incident, say the police intentionally shot him without warning and without proper cause or justification.

What were the police defending themselves against? An unarmed man hiding in his family’s barn? The police say different, in fact each officer seems to have a different version of events. Did Angelo attack them with a knife? Did he rage up against them after being tasered? Did he really pose a lethal risk to so many experienced fire arm and anti terrorist officers? Having read through the testimonies and evidence presented in this book, I happen to think not!

I’m sure after reading this counter-investigation you will be sufficiently knowledgeable of the facts so that you can make up your own mind as to the truth of what occurred in that barn, that day.

Regardless, a man died at the hands of the police and this needed to be properly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, based upon all of the evidence, not just the say so of the officers concerned or witness testimony alone. It is here the problems arise. When it is simply one persons word against the other, especially when it is a person who is in a responsible position of trust, should their word be worth more than another’s?

Some will say, they are good police men and wouldn’t have acted wrongly they should be believed over a criminal. But why assume this to always be the case?

There are so many cases of police misconduct and abuse of power that it would be impossible to list them all! Regardless, the criminal justice system and its representatives must be transparent and accountable for any wrong doing or allegations of such. Without, there is no hope for justice!

I became enthralled by this book and couldn’t stop reading. It gave me so much to think about both socially and legally with regard to the criminal justice system, its representatives and evidence. Mainly, my heart went out to Angelo’s family, who also suffered and continue to suffer today. The media blackout around this case may have been deliberately engineered by the authorities in an attempt to prevent social unrest.

From reading, I was able to make my own reasoned conclusions based upon the evidence Fassin presented and not the outcome he simply wanted the reader to come to.

The story of Angelo Garand hit me hard and we as people need to make sure that our authorities act fairly, justly and correctly. Without an accountable criminal justice system there can be no justice.

By publicising cases such as this, people are made aware, we can try to ensure that these cases are not swept under the carpet, forgotten and archived to history, like what appears to have been attempted here. Was the government worried about people’s reactions? Did they expect to prevent a problem with civil unrest as a result? Publishing this counter-investigation will make people aware of this case and I hope other readers will make their own minds up as to whether the officials were right or wrong. I think you will find as I have, that nothing can justify murder, and it doesn’t matter what ethnic group you are from, we are all subjects of authority and any one of us, at any time, can fall underneath the wheels of that authority. We can only hope by raising awareness of such events that we can ensure the powers that be can be held to account for their actions, and therefore prevent this from happening again in future to others. We must not allow the state to escape punishment for wrongdoing against anyone, regardless of who they are or where they are from.

Death of a Traveller is available now, published by Polity Books.

Review by Amanda Howard

Keep up to date with all new content on Joyzine via our
Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Mailing List

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: