Tear gas, scuffles in Paris as thousands turn out for new ‘freedom march’

Violence has erupted in Paris for a second Saturday as thousands took to the streets across France to denounce the government’s new security law.

Most protesters marched peacefully in the French capital before clashes erupted between police and pockets of protesters, most dressed in black, some hooded or with their faces covered.

Many used tools to break up paving stones, which, along with firecrackers and other projectiles, were hurled at police, who responded with tear gas, in a repeat of violent scenes from last weekend’s protests against the security law that would restrict publishing pictures of the faces of police.

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 Yellow Vest 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 burst into flames along Avenue Gambetta as demonstrators marched towards the central Place de la Republique, AFP reporters said.

Familiar scenes in Paris

 

Clashes broke out between police and a handful of demonstrators, who used objects left into the streets to create impromptu barricades that they then set on fire.

Some letting off smoke bombs and firecrackers, shouted slogans like “Everyone hates the police.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that 22 people had been detained in Paris so far by police, who he said were facing “very violent individuals”.

The Paris march was one of around 100 protests planned throughout France on Saturday against the new security law.

Police had 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 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.

Under a sign demanding the withdrawal of the security law, CGT union leader Philippe Martinez said 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.

He referred to the “abuse of employers” and the loss of worker protections.

Police anger

 

The new clashes came after Macron gave 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 particularly concerned by the actions of French police.

Macron acknowledged “there are some police who are violent” and insisted that “they need to be punished”. He also slammed violence against the police, which he blamed on hooligans.

But the president told Brut: “When you have a skin colour that is not white, you are checked much more by police. You are identified as a problem factor. And that cannot be justified.”

His comments sparked a furious backlash from police unions, who called on officers to stop carrying out ID checks in protest.

“The police are not racist…This is shameful,” said the Alliance union. “The president will get the police he deserves.”

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