On December 5th, violence escalated in Paris for the second consecutive weekend at a mass protest against a new security law and police brutality.
The weekly nationwide protests are becoming a major crisis for President Emmanuel Macron’s government, with tensions intensified by the beating of a Black music producer by police in November.
Windows of a supermarket, property agency and a bank were broken while several cars burst into flames along Avenue Gambetta as demonstrators marched towards the central Place de la Republique.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 64 people were detained across the country, and eight police officers were injured.
France has been hit by a wave of street protests after the government introduced a security bill in parliament that set out to increase its surveillance tools and restrict rights on circulating images of police officers in the media and online.
The bill was part of Macron’s drive to get tougher on law and order ahead of elections in 2022. His government also said the police needed to be better protected from online hate.
The draft legislation provoked a public backlash.
After four French police officers were charged on November 30 over the beating and racial abuse of Black music producer Michel Zecler, legislators from Macron’s party pledged a “complete rewrite” of part of the draft law.
On December 4th, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a hugely anticipated interview 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 the French police.
Macron acknowledged “there are police who are violent” and insisted that “they need to be punished”.
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.
Macron said the images of the beating of Black music producer Michel Zecler by police officers in Paris last weekend “shame us”. The incident magnified concerns about alleged systemic racism in the police force.
HINT: The video is age restricted, and must be viewed on YouTube itself, here is the link.
“Police everywhere, justice nowhere” and “police state” and “smile while you are beaten” were among the slogans brandished as protesters marched from Place de la Republique to the nearby Place de la Bastille.
“We have felt for a long time to have been the victim of institutionalised racism from the police,” said Mohamed Magassa 35, who works in a reception centre for minors. “But now we feel that this week all of France has woken up.”
There are no numbers as of how many took to the streets on December 5th, but the protests on the November 28-29th weekend 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, the interior ministry said. Protest organisers estimated 500,000 joined nationwide, including 200,000 in the capital.
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