Powerful image shows protesters in Paris kneeling as chaos breaks out

·3-min read

Riot police in Paris have used tear gas as they faced off with protesters setting fires amid growing global outrage after the death of an African-American man in police custody in the US.

French protesters took a knee and raised their fists while firefighters struggled to extinguish multiple blazes as a largely peaceful, multiracial demonstration degenerated into scattered tensions.

Several thousand people defied a virus-related ban on protests on Tuesday to pay homage to George Floyd and Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.

Electric scooters and construction barriers went up in flames on the first day French cafes were allowed to open after nearly three months of coronavirus lockdown.

Protesters kneel and react by a burning barricade during a demonstration Tuesday, June 2, 2020 in Paris. Paris riot officers fired tear gas as scattered protesters threw projectiles and set fires at an unauthorized demonstration against police violence and racial injustice. Several thousand people rallied peacefully for two hours around the main Paris courthouse in homage to George Floyd and to Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Protesters kneel in front of a burning barricade at a protest in Paris. Source: AP
Several thousand people rallied peacefully for two hours around the main Paris courthouse. Source: AP
Several thousand people rallied peacefully for two hours around the main Paris courthouse. Source: AP

Chanting "I can't breathe", thousands marched peacefully through Sydney, while thousands more demonstrated in the Dutch capital of The Hague and hundreds rallied in Tel Aviv.

Expressions of anger erupted in multiple languages on social networks, with thousands of Swedes joining an online protest and others speaking out under the banner of BlackOutTuesday.

Diplomatic ire percolated too, with the EU's top foreign policy official saying the bloc was "shocked and appalled" by Floyd's death.

Floyd died last week after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

A protester runs through tear gas during a Paris demonstration on Tuesday. Source: AP
A protester runs through tear gas during a Paris demonstration on Tuesday. Source: AP

The death set off protests that spread across America and beyond.

As demonstrations escalated worldwide, solidarity with US protesters increasingly mixed with local worries.

"This happened in the United States, but it happens in France, it happens everywhere," Paris protester Xavier Dintimille said.

While he said police violence seems worse in the US, he added, "all blacks live this to a degree".

Even as US President Donald Trump fanned anger by threatening to send in troops on American protesters, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau refrained from directly criticising him, and said the protests should force awareness of racism everywhere.

Protesters hold an "I can't breath" poster during a demonstration in Paris. Source: AP
Protesters hold an "I can't breath" poster during a demonstration in Paris. Source: AP

"We all watch in horror and consternation what's going on in the United States," Trudeau said.

"But it is a time for us as Canadians to recognise that we, too, have our challenges, that black Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day. There is systemic discrimination in Canada."

More protests in various countries are planned later in the week, including a string of demonstrations in front of US embassies on Saturday.

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