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Home World Affairs Chaos In Paris As French Protesters Rally Against Police Brutality, Macron's Bill

Chaos In Paris As French Protesters Rally Against Police Brutality, Macron’s Bill

Violence erupted in Paris on Saturday for the second consecutive weekend at a mass protest against a new security law, with demonstrators clashing with police, vehicles set alight and shop windows smashed.

Dozens of hooded protesters launched projectiles at riot police, smashed up shop windows, torched cars and burned barricades during a demonstration in the French capital on Saturday against police violence. The police fired back volleys of tear gas.

Thousands of people had begun marching peacefully in Paris when the clashes erupted between police and pockets of protesters, most dressed in black and their faces covered. Some used hammers to break up paving stones.

Windows of a supermarket, property agency and bank were broken while several cars burst into flames along Avenue Gambetta as demonstrators marched toward the central Place de la Republique, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reporters said.

The protesters were denouncing police brutality and President Emmanuel Macron’s security policy plans which the demonstrators say would restrict civil liberties.

They waved banners that read “France, land of police rights” and “Withdrawal of the security law.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter that police in Paris were facing “very violent individuals.”

Thirty people have been detained so far Saturday, Paris police said on Twitter, with a police source blaming the violence on up to 500 radical individuals who took part.

France has been hit by a wave of street protests after the government introduced a security bill in parliament that set out to increase its surveillance tools and restrict rights on circulating images of police officers in the media and online.

The bill was part of Macron’s drive to get tougher on law and order ahead of elections in 2022. His government also said the police needed to be better protected from online hate.

But the draft legislation provoked a public backlash.

The beating and racial abuse of a black man, music producer Michel Zecler, by several police officers in late November intensified anger. That incident came to light after closed-circuit television and mobile phone footage circulated online. In a U-turn earlier this week, Macron’s ruling party said it would rewrite the article that curbs rights to circulate images of police officers. But many opponents say that is not enough.

“We’re heading towards an increasingly significant limitation of freedoms. There is no justification,” Paris resident Karine Shebabo told Reuters.

Another protester, Xavier Molenat, said: “France has this habit of curbing freedoms while preaching their importance to others.”

It was one of almost 100 protests planned throughout France on Saturday against the new security law with thousands gathering in cities including Montpellier, Marseille and Nantes, where two police were wounded by a Molotov cocktail.

French police had been deployed in force to avert trouble after the violent clashes erupted during the demonstration in Paris a week ago that saw dozens wounded.

Lawwmakers from Macron’s party pledged a “complete rewrite” of part of the draft law.

“There isn’t a day when we don’t hear about police brutality,” Amal Bentounsi, who founded a collective for victims of police brutality, told AFP.

“This law on security targets those who have been subjected to repression for years, especially in working-class neighborhoods,” she added.

The beating of Zecler has acted as a rallying cause for people angered by alleged institutionalized racism in the police, who activists accuse of singling out black and Arab men for checks.

But the protest also brought together unionists and yellow vest activists, with CGT union leader Philippe Martinez saying several causes were coming together.

“There is no contradiction between public and individual freedoms and the need to fight job insecurity and unemployment,” Martinez told AFP.

The new clashes came after Macron gave a hugely-anticipated interview on Friday to Brut, a video-based news portal aimed at young people, which was seen as an attempt by the president to win credibility with youth concerned by the actions of French police.

Macron acknowledged “there are police who are violent” and insisted that “they need to be punished.”

He acknowledged that “when you have a skin color that is not white, you are controlled much more (by police). You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified.”

But he also lashed out at the violence against police at last weekend’s rally in Paris, which he blamed on “crazy people.”

“I cannot let it be said that we are reducing freedoms in France,” he said, taking aim at criticism of the country in international media.
Courtesy: Dailysabah.com

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