Several thousand anti-racism protesters gathered in central Paris on Saturday to denounce police violence, as a wave of anger continued to sweep the world following the death of African American George Floyd.
The issue has resonated in France, in particular in deprived city suburbs where rights groups say that accusations of brutal treatment by French police of residents of often immigrant background remain largely unaddressed.
One banner carried by the crowd in the Place de la Republique read: “I hope I don’t get killed for being black today”. Another carried a message for the government: “If you sow injustice, you reap a revolt.”
Large numbers of riot police were present, but they remained at a distance in surrounding streets.
Assa Traore, sister of 24-year-old Adama Traoré, who died near Paris in 2016 after police detained him, addressed the crowd.
“The death of George Floyd has a strong echo in the death in France of my little brother,” she said. “What’s happening in the United States is happening in France. Our brothers are dying.”
Traore’s family say he was asphyxiated when three officers held him down with the weight of their bodies. Authorities say the cause of his death is unclear.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner earlier this week acknowledged there were “proven suspicions of racism” within French law enforcement agencies.
His remarks drew condemnation from police unions, which said officers were being scapegoated for deep-rooted social ills. Police have held their own protests in cities across France this week.
Ahead of the protest, in the ethnically diverse Paris suburb of Belleville, one man of Algerian descent said he had been the victim of police violence but he doubted institutional racism ran through the force.
“I’ve been insulted, hit even. But the police aren’t all the same,” he told Reuters TV, identifying himself as Karim. “Unfortunately, this minority is hurting the police.”
Far-right activists unfurled a banner reading “Justice for the victims of anti-white racism” from the rooftop of a building overlooking Place de la Republique.
Protests took place in other countries on Saturday, including in several Australian cities, Taipei, Zurich and London.