Protesters clash with police at Paris anti-racism rally
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Brief scuffles have broken out in central Paris at a demonstration against alleged police brutality and racism, with security forces firing tear gas as projectiles were thrown at them. Thousands turned out in Paris for the latest protest in support of Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016.
The protests come against a backdrop of mounting anger amongst police officers who have denounced the accusations of brutality and racism – and also top officials for not backing the institution.
The Paris police prefecture said around 15,000 people gathered at Place de la République in Paris for Saturday's march, organised by the Adama Traoré committee, created to call for justice for the man who died in the Paris region in police custody.
The organisation has been galvanised by a wave of outrage sweeping the United States and the world after the killing by a policeman of unarmed black man George Floyd.
The demonstration began calmly in Paris, as Traoré's half-sister Assa Traoré addressed the crowd. “The death of George Floyd has a strong echo in France in the death of my little brother,” she said. “What’s happening in the United States is happening in France. Our brothers are dying.”
Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” as some climbed the statue of Marianne, who personifies the French Republic. Brief clashes broke out around 5pm, as protesters threw flares and other projectiles towards the police, who fired tear gas and charged the crowd.
Calm returned as demonstrators began to make their way towards Opéra.
Its discourse has broadened from denouncing police violence to denouncing alleged "systemic racism", finding a powerful echo after the death of Floyd in the US.
French police slam accusations
French police staged protests for a second day Friday, angry at the charge of racism in their ranks. They slammed top officials for failing to defend the force against the allegations.
Several dozen officers blocked traffic in a wildcat march down the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris, carrying banners proclaiming: "No police, no peace!" and "The police aren't racist."
Border police at Orly airport south of Paris and officers in Bordeaux, Marseille and other cities threw handcuffs, armbands and other equipment on the ground while standing in formation, with many shouting for the resignation of Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Castaner infuriated officers this week with a pledge of "zero tolerance" for police racism after 20,000 people massed at the Paris courthouse on 2 June in an echo of the Black Lives Matter protests in America.
He also said police would no longer be allowed to use chokeholds to detain suspects, a move derided by many officers as an unfeasible concession that could make their jobs more perilous.
"The police are not racist... they save people's lives no matter the colour of their skin," Fabien Vanhemelryck, head of the Alliance union, told journalists on Friday.
Castaner met police representatives on Thursday and Friday.
"It's not just the interior minister... the president must make sure the police are respected," Vanhemelryck said.
Some police unions have threatened to carry out only minimal duties, since France forbids strike action by law enforcement agents.
President Emmanuel Macron could address the heightened tensions in a TV speech on Sunday evening.
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