France

French protesters march to denounce racism, support undocumented migrants

Assa Traore, sister of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old Black Frenchman who died in 2016 in police custody, speaks during a protest against police brutality, racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Paris, France, June 20, 2020.
Assa Traore, sister of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old Black Frenchman who died in 2016 in police custody, speaks during a protest against police brutality, racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in Paris, France, June 20, 2020. REUTERS - GONZALO FUENTES

Thousands of people marched in Paris and across France on Saturday in a string of protests against racism, alleged police violence and other social injustices, including undocumented migrants.

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Hundreds turned out in the capital to remember black men who died following encounters with French police or under suspicious circumstances. They made their way to the former home of Lamine Dieng, a 25-year-old French-Senegalese man arrested in 2007 who died in a police van.

They also marched in support of Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016. His sister, Assa Traoré, has become a figurehead of the racial justice movement, and has protested for the past four weekends.   

Thousands of other protesters marched in Paris and cities around France in support of undocumented migrants.

“I hope, that this is not just a moment of brief awareness," Dieng's sister Ramata Dieng told The Associated Press. “We have dreamed for a long time of seeing this many people mobilising on this issue.”

“This can’t stop at indignation. It’s fine to be indignant but we must move to the next step and the next step is to put implement the tools, have laws voted on so that police are no longer above the law,” she said.

The French government agreed earlier this month to pay 145,000 euros ($162,000) to Dieng’s relatives in a settlement via the European Court of Human Rights, after the family tried for more than a decade to hold police accountable for his death.

Many at Saturday’s protest linked it with the case of of George Floyd, an African American man whose death on May 25 in the U.S. city of Minneapolis galvanised protesters around the globe to rally against racism and police brutality.

“George Floyd was the hair that broke the camel’s back in the United States, but it’s not just George Floyd,” demonstrator Lylia Boukerrouche.

“In France, though it’s different, it’s a similar situation. It was a colonial state, and we see that today police violence occurs against back and Arabs, the descendants of immigrants,” Boukerrouche added.

Some demonstrators carried placards bearing the words “Justice For Ibo,” a reference to Ibrahima Bah, 22, who died in an October motorbike crash in the Paris suburbs of Villiers-le-Bel wile allegedly trying to escape a police check. Bah’s family blames the police for his death.

The protests Saturday in Paris for Dieng and undocumented migrants were authorised by French authorities, who have been exercising caution over protests in recent weeks as the country emerges from coronavirus restrictions.

Other protests on Saturday in the French capital were banned, including an anti-racism demonstration near the U.S. Embassy by the Black African Defense League, and another protest linked to recent violence involving Chechens in the French city of Dijon. Activists gathered anyway.

Separately, a small group of activists staged a flash protest Saturday outside the French Health Ministry in support of state medical workers, who are demanding higher pay and more hospital staff after France’s once-renowned health care system struggled to cope with the virus crisis following years of cost cuts.

The protesters sprayed red paint on the ministry building, symbolising blood, and on a mock medal.

(with AP)

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