Clashes break out at Paris protest against Macron’s security law

Demonstrations sparked by police beating of black producer occur in several French cities

Thousands took part in a peaceful march against police brutality and new security legislation in Paris on Saturday, when violence erupted between police and pockets of protesters. Video: Reuters

 

Dozens of protesters clashed with riot police during a demonstration in the French capital on Saturday against police violence and a draft security law.

The police fired tear gas and made repeated charges at groups of hooded demonstrators after they launched projectiles, smashed up shop fronts, torched cars and burned barricades over the course of three hours. One group of protesters ransacked the branch office of a bank, throwing piles of paperwork onto a fire outside.

It marked the second consecutive of weekend of unrest in Paris, provoked by recent episodes of police brutality and French president Emmanuel Macron’s security plans, which the demonstrators say would restrict civil liberties.

Rallies also took place in Marseilles, Lyons, Lille and other French cities.

Thousands of people had begun marching peacefully in Paris, waving banners that read “France, land of police rights” and “withdrawal of the security law”, when the clashes erupted.

Paris police said 30 arrests had been made by 5pm Irish time.

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 Mr 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 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, Mr 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,” said Paris resident Karine Shebabo.

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

Mr Macron acknowledged on Friday that people of colour were more likely to be stopped by police for ID checks than white people. He said an online platform would be created for citizens to log unwarranted searches.

The president’s remarks drew a furious response from police unions on Saturday. Alliance Police called Mr Macron’s comments shameful and denied the force was racist. The Alternative Police union threatened to halt random checks. – Reuters