Violence erupts in new Paris protest against security law

Violence erupts in new Paris protest against security law

PARIS-Agence France-Presse
Violence erupts in new Paris protest against security law

Violence erupted in Paris on Dec. 5 for the second consecutive weekend at a mass protest against a new security law, with demonstrators clashing with police, vehicles set alight and shop windows smashed.

The weekly nationwide protests are becoming a major headache for President Emmanuel Macron’s government, with tensions intensified by the beating of a black music producer by police last month.

Members of the so-called yellow vests movement, which shook Macron with protests against a lack of equality in France over the winter of 2018-2019, were also prominent in the rally.

Windows of a supermarket, property agency and bank were broken while several cars were in flames along Avenue Gambetta as thousands of demonstrators marched towards the central Place de la Republique, AFP reporters said.

Objects were also thrown at police who responded by using tear gas, in a repeat of the violent scenes from the protests last weekend against the security law that would restrict publication of pictures showing the faces of police.

Some demonstrators used objects left in the streets to create impromptu barricades that they then set on fire. A bank was ransacked by protesters who broke inside and brought out papers that they burned in the street.

Protesters, some letting off smoke bombs and firecrackers, shouted slogans including "Everyone hates the police".

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on Twitter that police in Paris were facing "very violent individuals".

Thirty people have been detained so far on Dec. 5, Paris police said on Twitter, with a police source blaming the violence on up to 500 radical individuals who took part.

It was one of almost 100 protests planned throughout France on Dec. 5 against the new security law with thousands gathering in cities including Montpellier, Marseille, and Nantes, where two police were wounded by a Molotov cocktail.

French police had been deployed in force to avert trouble after the violent clashes erupted during the demonstration in Paris a week ago that saw dozens wounded.

Media freedom and human rights groups have led protests for weeks to have the government scrap or revise a bill that would restrict the filming of police, saying it would make it harder to prosecute cases of abuse.

After four French police officers were charged on November 30 over the beating and racial abuse of black music producer Michel Zecler, lawmakers from Macron’s party pledged a "complete rewrite" of part of the draft law.

"There isn’t a day when we don’t hear about police brutality," said Amal Bentounsi, who founded a collective for victims of police brutality.

"This law on security targets those who have been subjected to repression for years, especially in working-class neighborhoods," she added.

The beating of Zecler has acted as a rallying cause for people angered by alleged institutionalized racism in the police, who activists accuse of singling out black and Arab men for checks.

But the protest also brought together unionists and yellow vest activists, with CGT union leader Philippe Martinez saying several causes were coming together.

"There is no contradiction between public and individual freedoms and the need to fight job insecurity and unemployment," Martinez told AFP.

The new clashes came after Macron gave a hugely-anticipated interview on Friday to Brut, a video-based news portal aimed at young people, which was seen as an attempt by the president to win credibility with youth concerned by the actions of French police.

Macron acknowledged "there are police who are violent" and insisted that "they need to be punished".

He acknowledged that "when you have a skin color that is not white, you are controlled much more [by police]. You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified."

But he also lashed out at the violence against police at last weekend’s rally in Paris, which he blamed on "crazy people".

"I cannot let it be said that we are reducing freedoms in France," he said, taking aim at criticism of the country in international media.