Thousands in France protest police violence and racism

Racial minorities and anti-racist groups have long denounced racial profiling by law enforcement.

Thousands in France protest police violence and racism

PARIS — Thousands gathered Saturday in Paris and in other major French cities to protest racism and police brutality, in what may be one of the largest anti-racism demonstrations in decades in the country.

The crowd held signs that read “Black Lives Matter” and “The State won’t silence police brutality” and chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Justice for Adama,” referring to Adama Traoré, a French black man whose death in police custody has been likened to that of George Floyd in the United States.

France, which champions liberté, égalité and fraternité and legally ignores the concept of race, is not used to such large-scale anti-racist protests.

But the movement has gained traction since the death of George Floyd and renewed protests over the Traoré case. Traoré died while under arrest in 2016, with his family saying law enforcement officers’ rough handling caused his death. A preliminary investigation pointed to pre-existing medical conditions. The case was reopened last year.

“George Floyd’s death echoes my little brother’s death,” said Assa Traoré, Adama Traoré’s sister and an anti-racism activist, at the protest. “What’s happening in the United States, it’s exactly the same thing in France,” she added.

Racial minorities and anti-racist groups have long denounced racial profiling by law enforcement, amid a wider outcry over alleged police brutality, including during the anti-government Yellow Jackets movement. The French police has categorically denied any structural racism within its ranks, with the government holding a similar line.

But protesters, predominantly young, draw a parallel with the U.S.’s Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think the situation is comparable in the modus operandi [of the police], and also because we’re talking about police violence against people of color, with the victim perceived as the aggressor,” said Soraya Ntumba, a 20-year-old literature student at La Sorbonne, at the march.

“These are phenomena that we have seen [in France] for a long time with the Zyed and Bouna case [two boys whose death in 2005 led to weeks of riots in Paris’ suburbs] … the Adama case. It’s strange to see in France that the media can’t see police violence whereas in the U.S. it’s everywhere.”

The movement extends far beyond the capital, with rallies organized Saturday in Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier and other cities across the country.

The American movement has partly spilled over into France thanks to social networks, according to Ntumba: “I came to learn about K-Pop on Tumblr and ended up getting interested in racial violence by following Americans,” she said with a laugh.

The protest, launched in the northeastern part of the city on Place de la République, was predominantly peaceful, with many wearing masks to abide by the coronavirus-related health guidelines, and a big police presence on the sidelines.

But tensions arose as protesters were not allowed to march toward the Opéra neighborhood as they intended to. Mid-afternoon, the first tear gas grenades were launched by the police, with protestors blocked on every street surrounding the square.

The gathering in the Place de la République also gave a brief glimpse of the tensions among French youth, as an extreme right-wing group tried to install a banner on a building denouncing anti-white racism, to the booing of the crowd. Applause followed as the building’s inhabitants grabbed knives and threw pieces of the banner at the crowd, while anti-fascist groups dressed in black marched toward the building.

No official estimate of the number of protesters was available at the time of publication from either the organizers or the authorities.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Johnson condemns ‘racist thuggery’ after UK protests turn violent

The British prime minister said that violent protesters would face the 'full force of the law.'

Johnson condemns ‘racist thuggery’ after UK protests turn violent

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned “racist thuggery” after right-wing protesters clashed with anti-racist activists and police in London on Saturday.

London police arrested 100 people, among thousands who traveled to the city to protest, on charges including violent disorder and assault on officers.

The city has become a new epicenter for protests in the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the U.S. as the Black Lives Matter movement has gone global. It has prompted a reckoning with the U.K.’s history of involvement in the slave trade and racism.

Monuments have become a focal point for protesters on both sides in the U.K., following the removal by protesters last week of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

Saturday’s right-wing protests marked the start of a backlash with far-right activists shouting racial slurs and vowing to protect English culture. The protests were advertised as an effort to defend a statue in Parliament Square of Winston Churchill which was defaced during a protest last weekend with the words “was a racist” in graffiti. The monument to the wartime leader has subsequently been boarded up temporarily.

“Racist thuggery has no place on our streets,” Johnson tweeted Saturday night. “Anyone attacking the police will be met with full force of the law. These marches & protests have been subverted by violence and breach current guidelines. Racism has no part in the UK and we must work together to make that a reality.”

While both anti-racist and rightwing protesters were on the streets, London Mayor Sadiq Khan pinned the blame for the violence squarely on the latter.

“Millions of Londoners will have been disgusted by the shameful scenes of violence, desecration and racism displayed by the right-wing extremists who gathered in our city today,” Khan tweeted late Saturday night.

Referring to the violence perpetrated by far-right protesters, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said, “The scenes were ugly and very very threatening.”

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning that, “[Churchill’s] statue should never have been attacked. And the idiots who did it detract from the central message of Black Lives Matter.”

On Saturday, police said they were investigating an image of a man urinating next to a monument of Keith Palmer, an police officer killed by a terrorist trying to enter the Palace of Westminster in 2017.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden appeared to rule out speedy removal of any statues earlier in the day on Saturday. He  tweeted that he’d written to lawmakers to argue that “heritage” should be used to “educate people about all aspects of Britain’s complex past, good and bad, rather than airbrushing history.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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