French protesters clash with police over new security law

By: AFP      Published: 05:03 AM, 29 Nov, 2020
French protesters clash with police over new security law

Violent clashes erupted in Paris Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black man that shocked France.

Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law which would restrict the publication of police officers' faces.

Some 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the interior ministry said. President Emmanuel Macron said late Friday that the images of the beating of black music producer Michel Zecler by police officers in Paris last weekend "shame us". The incident had 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," he said.

"The fundamental and basic liberties of our democracy are being attacked -- freedom of expression and information," added Sophie Misiraca, 46, a lawyer.  Several cars, a newspaper kiosk and a brasserie were set on fire close to Place de la Bastille, police said. 

Some protesters threw stones at the security forces who responded by firing tear gas and using water cannon, an AFP correspondent said.   Police complained that protesters impeded fire services from putting out the blazes and said nine people had been detained by the early evening.