Violent clashes erupted in Paris as tens of thousands took to the streets against a proposed security law. Tensions were already high after the circulation last week of a video showing police officers beating and racially abusing a Black man.
Police repeatedly fired tear gas to disperse rowdy protesters on Saturday who set fire to France’s central bank and threw paving stones.
Some 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the interior ministry said. Protest organisers estimated 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital.
President Emmanuel Macron said late Friday the images of the beating of Black music producer Michel Zecler by police officers in Paris last weekend “shame us”. The incident magnified concerns about alleged systemic racism in the police force.
“Police everywhere, justice nowhere” and “police state” and “smile while you are beaten” were among the slogans brandished as protesters marched from Place de la Republique to the nearby Place de la Bastille.
“We have felt for a long time to have been the victim of institutionalised racism from the police,” said Mohamed Magassa 35, who works in a reception centre for minors. “But now we feel that this week all of France has woken up.”
A series of high-profile cases against police officers over the mistreatment of Black or Arab citizens has raised accusations of institutionalised racism. The police force has insisted violations are the fault of isolated individuals.
Three of the police officers involved in the beating of Zecler are being probed for using racial violence and all four are still being held for questioning after their detention on Saturday was extended for another 24 hours.