Mother of Jérémy Cohen, Killed While Fleeing From Gang Assault in Paris, Urges Caution on Claim of Antisemitism
The mother of Jérémy Cohen — the French Jewish man who was fatally struck by a tram while fleeing from a gang assault in a Paris suburb — has urged caution with regard to classifying the incident as an antisemitic hate crime.
Speaking at a press conference in Paris on Thursday afternoon, Evelyne Cohen said that the family was not ready to describe the assault on her son as antisemitic. Jérémy, who was 31, was killed on Feb. 16 after being struck by a moving tram in the Paris suburb of Bobigny.
A harrowing video of the incident posted to social media last weekend showed an individual being punched and kicked while fleeing from an attack by at least a dozen gang members, running dazedly into the street where he was knocked down and killed by an oncoming tram.
“The investigation will reveal whether this element [antisemitism] should be retained or not,” Mrs. Cohen stated. She said that the family had met with police investigators assigned to the case, expressing their “sincere thanks and hope that they will succeed in shedding light on the circumstances of Jérémy’s death and assault.”
Said Mrs. Cohen: “We trust them to conclude that justice will be done. And we ask all the internet networks and other media to remain cautious regarding the antisemitic character.”
The Cohen family had earlier expressed frustration with the progress of the investigation, with Jérémy’s brothers launching a flyer campaign in the Bobigny neighborhood requesting further information about his death. On March 10, the family received a grainy cellphone video that subsequently went viral, showing the gang members surrounding their victim in a doorway on a busy street in Bobigny, as passengers in cars that were attempting to drive by passively watched the attack unfold. Cohen was seen being beaten several times by different gang members before escaping into the street, where he was struck with brute force by a tram whose driver had little opportunity to brake.
Because of its distant camera angle, the video did not show whether Cohen was wearing the kippah that normally adorned his head when he was attacked, which would have clearly identified him as Jew. A white kippah was recovered from the scene of the assault by investigators.
Widespread anger at Cohen’s fate — and the perceived indifference of the authorities — has now become an issue overshadowing the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday. In a television interview on Wednesday, Cohen’s father Gerald confirmed that the family had reached out to maverick far-right candidate Eric Zemmour, who hails from an Algerian Jewish immigrant family, urging him to publicize the case. “For a month and a half, we heard nothing from the investigation,” he said. “We wrote to Eric Zemmour who was kind enough to talk about our suffering and Jérémy’s death.”
On Thursday, Evelyne Cohen repeated her husband’s praise for Zemmour. “We would also like to thank Mr. Zemmour and his team for having broadcast the message of our distress at Jeremy’s death,” she said, adding that the family had sent out a “final distress call” because “no-one has brought us any real answers despite our having contacted many different services.”
The French interior minister also weighed into the increasingly febrile debate over the authorities’ response to Cohen’s death, which is currently being investigated as manslaughter by the public prosecutor in Bobigny.
In a television interview on Thursday morning, Gerald Darmanin disputed the claim that Cohen’s family and various media outlets sympathetic to Zemmour had obtained the video of the assault in advance of the police.
“I just want to say that it would be wrong to think that it was social media networks or a presidential candidate who enabled the opening of an investigation,” Darmanin said. “We received this video on March 10, and that same night it was sent by the police to the judicial authorities. An investigation was opened the day after this report.”
Darmanin emphasized that while the “antisemitic character” of the attack had not been established, there was a natural concern among French Jews given the year-on-year increase in incidents targeting members of the community, along with the fact that many urban neighborhoods are unsafe for Jews.
“We should not underestimate the difficulties for Jews in France with a target on their backs, in certain neighborhoods where we try to provide maximum protection,” Darmanin said.