Violence erupted in Paris for the second consecutive weekend at a mass protest against a new security law and police brutality, as demonstrators clashed with police, set alight vehicles and smashed shop windows.
The weekly nationwide protests are becoming a major crisis for President Emmanuel Macron’s government, with tensions intensified by the beating of a Black music producer by police last month.
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Members of the so-called yellow vests movement, which shook Macron with protests against inequality in France over the winter of 2018-19, were also prominent in the rally on Saturday.
Windows of a supermarket, property agency and a bank were broken while several cars burst into flames along Avenue Gambetta as demonstrators marched towards the central Place de la Republique, AFP news agency reporters said.
Objects were also thrown at police who responded by using tear gas, in a repeat of the violent scenes from the protests last weekend against the security law that would restrict publishing pictures of the faces of the police.
Some demonstrators used objects left into the streets to create impromptu barricades that they set on fire.
Protesters, some letting off smoke bombs and firecrackers, shouted slogans such as: “Everyone hates the police.”
It was one of about 100 protests planned throughout France on Saturday against the new security law.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 64 people were detained across the country, and eight police officers were injured.
France has been hit by a wave of street protests after the government introduced a security bill in parliament that set out to increase its surveillance tools and restrict rights on circulating images of police officers in the media and online.
The bill was part of Macron’s drive to get tougher on law and order ahead of elections in 2022. His government also said the police needed to be better protected from online hate.
But the draft legislation provoked a public backlash.
After four French police officers were charged on November 30 over the beating and racial abuse of Black music producer Michel Zecler, legislators from Macron’s party pledged a “complete rewrite” of part of the draft law.
Under a sign demanding the withdrawal of the security law, CGT union leader Philippe Martinez said several causes were coming together.
“There is no contradiction between public and individual freedoms and the need to fight job insecurity and unemployment,” Martinez told AFP.
He referred to the “abuse of employers” and the loss of worker protections.
On Friday, Macron gave a hugely anticipated interview to Brut, a video-based news portal aimed at young people, which was seen as an attempt by the president to win credibility with youth particularly concerned by the actions of the French police.
Macron acknowledged “there are police who are violent” and insisted that “they need to be punished”.
But he also lashed out at the violence against police at last weekend’s rally in Paris, which he blamed on “crazy people”.
“I cannot let it be said that we are reducing freedoms in France,” he said.