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Protests against police violence and racism in US to go ahead in Paris despite Covid-19

Protesters gather in Minneapolis to pay homage to George Floyd at a ceremony on 4 June 2020. The 46 year-old died at the hands of police on 25 May.
Protesters gather in Minneapolis to pay homage to George Floyd at a ceremony on 4 June 2020. The 46 year-old died at the hands of police on 25 May. REUTERS/Adam Bettcher TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
4 min

French police have banned two rallies to be held in front of the United States Embassy in Paris on Saturday, in honour of George Floyd, a black American who died at the hands of police last month. Similar protests around France have been cancelled, due to the Covid-19 lockdown rules in place which limit gatherings to 10 people.

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"These rallies, likely to draw a large number of people are not authorized under the state of emergency decree of 31 May in relation to public health, that bans any gathering of more than 10 people in a public place," the statement from police said on Friday, referring to restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

The statement also made reference to "incidents of violence" and arrests at a banned rally which went ahead on 2 June, where around 20 000 people gathered outside a Paris court house in support of the family of Adama Traoré, a 24 year-old black man killed in 2016 after being arrested.

His treatment at the hands of white police officers has drawn parallels with the death of George Floyd.

More than 20,000 people gathered outside the "Tribunal de Paris" courthouse in Paris on June 2, 2020 to denounce police violence, after French medical experts exonerated the gendarmes involved in the arrest of Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016.
More than 20,000 people gathered outside the "Tribunal de Paris" courthouse in Paris on June 2, 2020 to denounce police violence, after French medical experts exonerated the gendarmes involved in the arrest of Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016. AFP - STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

The organisers of Saturday's rally, the Black African Defence League (la Ligue de défense noire africaine) said they would go ahead with their peaceful protest regardless of the ban.

"The peaceful Parisian protest will go ahead," read their social media post.

"The right to protest is an undeniable right, especially when violence, negrophobia and racism have become the norm."

From Paris to Nice, a flurry of messages have appeared on social media calling on people to march in solidarity with victims of police violence and racism, in both France and the United States.

Using the hashtags #LaissezNousRespirer (Let us Breathe), #JusticeforallVictims (Justice for all Victims) and #PasdeJusticePasdePaix, (No Justice, No Peace), organisers across France have called for the public to show their anger against what they describe as systemic police violence and racism.

However, the government spokesperson, Sibeth Ndiaye said those who wanted to protest "would have to find another way to do so", in light of the current health crisis brought about by Covid-19.

There are concerns from rights groups however, that authorities are using the health crisis to stifle the right to free speech, both in France and in the United States.

Cities around France call for demonstrations

In Bordeaux, an organisation called for people to join a peaceful demonstration, "holding placards with the names of victims of police violence and racism."

Another march has been organised along the Garonne river towards the United States consulate in the city.

Similar calls for gatherings have been seen on Facebook, in Nantes, Poitiers, Marseille and the northern city of Lille, where 2,000 people gathered on Thursday evening despite a ban in place.

In the southern city of Nice, rallies organised for Saturday and Sunday were banned by the authorities.

Like in the United States, celebrities in France have joined the fray in speaking out against police violence and racism.

Petition

French actor Omar Sy, known for his role in the award-winning film Untouchables and roles in several American blockbusters said a "wake up call" was needed to question "a system which cannot render justice until it ends organised impunity that has gone on for decades."

After having marched in the US, where he currently lives, under the banner of Black Lives Matter movement, he began a petition against police violence here in France which has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.

On Friday, France's interior minister Christophe Castaner said he would open a legal inquiry into a Facebook group with 8,000 members of the police, accused of racism, homophobic and sexist content.

On Wednesday he said "every mistake, every excess, every word, including racist expressions" within the national police force "would be investigated, and punished accordingly."

 

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