Thousands stage rally in French capital against police brutality

Thousands of people have gathered in Paris to denounce police brutality and racial discrimination.

The march was one of the biggest of several Black Lives Matter demonstrations held on Saturday across the globe.

The Paris protest was among several in France and other countries this weekend for the same cause. It follows weeks of protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US.

Thousands of people take part in a demonstration against police brutality and racism in Paris. Credit: AP

Shouts rose from the crowd as a group of extreme-right activists climbed a building nearby and unfurled a huge banner denouncing "anti-white racism".

Residents in the building later tore part of the banner down.

Police stepped in to prevent people attending the main anti-racism rally from approaching the far-right activists.

Violence did, however, break out in parts and police cleared protesters from areas of the route.

Residents of a building cut up a banner which was lowered from the roof of a building by far-right protesters. Credit: AP

The march in the French capital was led by supporters of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old French black man who died in 2016.

Mr Traore did not have his identity card on him and reportedly ran as the police approached.

A huge portrait showed at the protests - half of Mr Traoré's face and half of Mr Floyd.

Mr Traoré's sister Assa told the crowd: "We are all demanding the same thing – fair justice for everyone."

She said her brother was also handcuffed and held down by police before he died, much like Mr Floyd had been last month in Minneapolis.

A final report released last month cleared three French officers of wrongdoing - triggering renewed protests over Mr Traoré' death.

Assa Traoré spoke at a press conference ahead of Saturday's march. Credit: AP

This week, the French government banned chokeholds.

Along the march route, the Paris police chief ordered merchants and city officials to clear pavements of anything that could be set on fire or used by troublemakers against police.

Gatherings of more than 10 people remain banned in France because of coronavirus containment measures.

Protests were also held in Marseille, Lyon and other French cities.

eople gather at Place de la Republique for march against police brutality and racism in Paris. Credit: AP

The French government is under growing pressure to address long-running accusations of excessive violence by police, particularly against minorities.

Researchers have documented racial profiling by French police, and investigations were opened recently into racist comments in private Facebook and WhatsApp groups for police officers.

The French interior minister Christophe Castaner promised this week to stamp out racism and announced a ban on police chokeholds during arrests.

French police unions held their own demonstrations on Friday, saying they are being unfairly labelled as racist because of a few extremist officers. The unions said they do not have enough tools to deal with violent suspects.

Thousands of protesters took part in Saturday's march. Credit: AP

After meeting union representatives, Mr Castaner said Friday night that police will start experimenting with expanded use of stun-guns in the future, despite concerns about their safety.

Assa Traore said that when she saw images of the police protesting: "I wasn’t even angry. I was ashamed of the French police.

"In the whole world, the only country where police officers demonstrate to keep their permission to kill is France."