Resistance to police law in France: protests escalate in Paris

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A law in France aims to restrict video recordings of police operations. Then again cases of brutal police violence are exposed through videos. Hundreds of thousands, however, take to the streets. There are also riots.

More than a hundred thousand people took part in the nationwide demonstrations against police violence and for freedom of the press in France. According to the French Interior Ministry, 133,000 people took to the streets in around a hundred cities on Saturday. According to the organizers, however, 200,000 people took part in the protests in Paris alone. The demonstrations were overshadowed by riots and arrests, and dozens of people were injured.

After an initially peaceful phase, riots broke out on the fringes of the protests in Paris. Police used tear gas against demonstrators who erected barricades and threw stones at security forces. On Bastille Square, protesters set fire to a newspaper kiosk, the entrance to a building belonging to the French Central Bank and a neighboring brasserie. Several cars were also burning in the area.

Demonstration in Paris: during a protest against a new security law, a participant holds a sign reading “Land of Police Rights”. (Source: Francois Mori / AP / dpa)

A photographer who works for the AFP news agency, among other things, was injured during a police operation in Paris along with several demonstrators, an AFP journalist reported. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) criticized the police for the “unacceptable” violence. The photographer was injured in the face with a baton, said RSF General Secretary Christophe Deloire on Twitter. There were also riots in the northwestern French city of Rennes.

The interior ministry announced that 37 officials were injured nationwide in the protests, 23 of them in the capital. Police arrested 46 demonstrators in Paris and the region. France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin condemned the attacks on police officers at the rallies. These are “unacceptable”, he wrote on the online service Twitter.

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Nantes and Montpellier. They protested against a planned law by which the French government would criminalize certain photographs or film recordings of police officers, through which individual police officers could come under criticism. Journalists’ associations fear massive restrictions on press freedom.

New cases of police violence fueled the protests

The protests were fueled by two new cases of police violence that had been taped earlier this week and caused horror across the country.

President Emmanuel Macron was “shocked” on Friday by the recordings of police officers who beat up and racially insulted a black music producer in his Paris studio. He spoke of an “unacceptable aggression” and called the pictures “shameful”. There had previously been massive criticism of the police for the violent evacuation of a refugee camp in Paris.

An alliance of journalists’ unions and human rights organizations called for the “March of Freedoms”. According to the organizers, a total of 500,000 people took part in the nationwide demonstrations, in Paris there were 200,000. The Interior Ministry, however, spoke of a total of 133,000 demonstrators and 46,000 participants in Paris.

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