Paris memorial march banned as new protests planned in France

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French police officers patrol in front of the Arc de Triomphe in the Champs Elysees area of Paris [File: Charly Triballeau/AFP]

French police have come under renewed scrutiny following the June 27 shooting of a teenager of Arab descent.

More than 1,000 people defied a ban and gathered in central Paris for a memorial rally with dozens of marches planned throughout France to denounce police brutality and racial profiling.

The demonstrations on Saturday came a week after the country was rocked by riots sparked by the killing of a teenager in a suburb of the French capital.

The protests were called by the family of Adama Traore, a Black Frenchman who died in police custody in 2016 in circumstances similar to the killing of George Floyd in the United States.

Traore’s older sister, Assa Traore, planned to lead the commemorative march north of Paris.

But a Paris police spokesperson said the demonstration had been banned over risks to public order, citing a “context of tensions” after the recent unrest on French streets.

Masked protesters walk amid tear gas during clashes at a march in tribute to Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer during a traffic stop, in Nanterre, Paris suburb, France, June 29, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier
Masked protesters walk amid tear gas during clashes in a Paris suburb [File: Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

In a video posted on Twitter Traore’s sister denounced the decision.

“The government has decided to add fuel to the fire [and] not to respect the death of my little brother,” she said in the video.

Instead of the planned event, she said she would attend a rally in central Paris’s Place de la Republique to tell “the whole world that our dead have the right to exist, even in death”.

“They authorise marches by neo-Nazis but they don’t allow us to march. France cannot give us moral lessons. Its police is racist and violent,” she said.

About 30 similar demonstrations against police violence are scheduled across France this weekend, including in the cities of Lille, Marseille, Nantes and Strasbourg.

Politicians including President Emmanuel Macron and the French authorities have denied institutional racism within the country’s law enforcement agencies.

The French police have come under scrutiny after the June 27 fatal shooting by a police officer of Nahel M at a traffic stop. The 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan origin was driving a sports car without a licence.

Since the shooting, rights groups have called on the police to address allegations of racial profiling and questions over recruitment and training.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – a body of 18 independent experts – on Friday asked France to pass legislation defining and banning racial profiling and questioned “excessive use of force by law enforcement”.

The CERD said it was concerned by “the persistent practice of racial profiling combined with the excessive use of force in the application of the law, in particular by the police, against members of minority groups, notably people of African and Arab origin”.

More than 3,700 people have been taken into police custody in connection with the protests since Nahel’s death, including at least 1,160 minors, according to official figures.

France’s foreign ministry on Saturday disputed what it called “excessive” and “unfounded” remarks by the panel.

Far-right parties have linked the most intense and widespread riots France has seen since 2005 to mass migration, and have demanded curbs on new arrivals.

Campaign groups say Saturday’s “citizens marches” will be an opportunity for people to express their “grief and anger” at discriminatory police policies, especially in working-class neighbourhoods.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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