French police clash with anti-racism activists in Paris

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Media caption,

There were clashes in Paris as police threw tear gas at protesters who hit them with stones

French police have clashed with activists protesting in Paris against racism and alleged police brutality.

Police used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters who tried to hold a march that was banned.

The rally is part of a worldwide movement inspired by America's Black Lives Matter protests.

It was organised under the banner "Justice for Adama", after Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in French police custody in 2016.

What happened in Paris?

About 15,000 anti-racism protesters gathered on the Place de la République in central Paris early on Saturday afternoon.

They chanted slogans such as "No justice, no peace". Some climbed on the the statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The death of George Floyd in the US resonated with the Paris protesters, many of whom came from immigrant suburbs

Among the protesters was Assa Traoré, Adama's sister, who called on them to "denounce social, racial, police violence".

"What's happening in the United States is happening in France. Our brothers are dying," she added.

Although the protesters were allowed to gather, they were prevented by police from marching to the Opera area.

The planned onward march had been banned because of the possible threat to local businesses.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Police in riot gear stopped the protesters from marching towards the Opera area

Clashes erupted and tear gas was fired as officers moved against the protesters on the Place de la République.

Le Parisien newspaper says 26 people were questioned by police. By early evening the demonstrators had dispersed.

Smaller protests were held in other French cities, including Lyon and Marseille.

Why are French police in the spotlight?

France's police watchdog says it received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year - half of them for alleged violence.

Image source, AFP

In one recent case, police are accused of seriously wounding a 14-year-old boy when he was detained on suspicion of trying to steal a scooter in Bondy near Paris last month.

On Monday Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a ban on the police "chokehold" method for restraining some suspects.

The announcement came after protesters took to the streets accusing French police of using brutality towards minorities.

Media caption,

Angry police in Lille discarded their handcuffs in a protest

Mr Castaner vowed that there would be "zero tolerance" of racism in law enforcement.

He has faced a backlash from police unions and officers, who denied that racism was rampant within their ranks.

On Friday officers rallied on the Champs-Élysées throwing their handcuffs on the ground.

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The history of police violence in the US

France is one of many countries that has seen a wave of anti-racism marches modelled on the latest Black Lives Matter protests in the US.

They were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed on 25 May by a white Minneapolis policeman who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.

More on George Floyd's death:

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"Keep pushing": Washington DC protesters on keeping the momentum going