Paris protest against police violence

Pol O Gradaigh, dpa
French demonstrators have protested against police brutality and the death of George Floyd

Thousands of people protested in central Paris in the latest demonstration accusing the police of racism and excessive violence.

The demonstration on Saturday was called by Assa Traore, whose brother Adama, a young black man, died in disputed circumstances after his arrest by gendarmes in 2016 in a town north of Paris.

Many of the mostly young, racially mixed crowd - estimated by police to be 15,000-strong - bore placards with slogans from the US Black Lives Matters movement.

"We are gathering today to denounce police violence. We are gathering today to denounce social violence. We are gathering today to denounce racial violence," Traore said as the square began to fill up.

Police had warned that the protest was banned under ongoing coronavirus restrictions.

They did not stop the rally, but forced demonstrators to remain in the large square of Place de la Republique, preventing them marching across the city centre as planned.

Later on Saturday however, France's top administrative court suspended the blanket ban on protests, saying it was a disproportionate restriction on a fundamental freedom.

The court noted that government advisors had indicated that the Covid-19 epidemic was at a low level and as of June 5 there was no sign of it worsening again.

Furthermore protests had gone ahead anyway without any consultations with authorities about how to ensure precautions were observed.

As protesters gathered on Saturday, far-right counter-demonstrators unfurled a huge banner denouncing what they called "anti-white racism" from a rooftop.

But it was quickly cut into pieces, apparently by residents who came out onto a balcony on the next floor down.

A police source said 12 people were arrested over the banner, with police headquarters announcing a total of 26 arrests.

Police said they had also alerted prosecutors to a video, published by a right-wing magazine, that showed a protester shouting an anti-Semitic slur at the far-right activists with the banner.

The demonstration was largely good-humoured, but minor clashes broke out after several hours, when most protesters were already leaving the square.