Protestors gather in Paris after three Kurds killed in 'racially motivated' shooting

Thousands took to the streets of Paris to protest the killings of three Kurds, as Ian Woods reports

Kurdish activists, left-wing politicians and anti-racism groups demonstrated in Paris, on Saturday, after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural center, in an attack which prosecutors said was racially motivated.

Friday's shooting in a bustling neighborhood of central Paris wounded a further three people and stirred up concerns about hate crimes against minority groups.

The attack also comes at a time when far-right voices have gained prominence in France and around Europe in recent years.

A 69-year-old man, who is the suspected attacker, is now in custody. He was charged last year with attacking migrants and released from prison earlier this month.

The Paris prosecutor's office said he is facing potential charges of murder and attempted murder with a racist motive.

On Saturday, thousands gathered at the Place de la Republique in eastern Paris, waving a colourful array of flags, representing Kurdish rights groups, political parties and other causes.

The gathering was largely peaceful, though some youths threw projectiles and skirmished with police firing tear gas.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.

Most demonstrators were ethnic Kurds of varying generations, who came together to mourn those who lost their lives.

Paris' Kurdish community has been rocked by the attack, which has also put police on extra alert for the Christmas weekend.

In an attempt to try to allay fears ahead of the rally, the French capital's police chief met with members of the Kurdish community.

France's Interior Ministry reported a 13% rise in race-related crimes or other violations between 2019 and 2021 - the ministry did not include 2020 in its statistics because of successive pandemic lockdowns that year.

Demonstrators throw stones toward police officers during Saturday's protest. Credit: AP

It said a disproportionate number of such crimes targeted people of African descent and also cited hundreds of attacks based on religion.

Friday’s attack took place near to a Kurdish restaurant and hair salon.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners, had acted alone and was not officially affiliated with any extreme-right or other radical movements.

The suspect had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence.

Kurdish activists said they had recently been warned by police of threats to targets within their community.

In 2013, three female Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz - a founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK - were found shot dead at a Kurdish center in Paris.