Black Lives Matter Paris protest marred by tension and tear gas

Police in the French capital Paris on Tuesday fired tear gas at protesters who were demonstrating against the deaths of black men in police custody.

Thousands of people gathered at Paris’ main courthouse to show solidarity with US protesters denouncing the killing of George Floyd and to condemn the death of a black man — Adama Traore — in French police custody in 2016.

Many of the protesters had taken a knee and raised their fist as police officers and firefighters struggled to disperse crowds and tackle small blazes.

Read more: Opinion: George Floyd killing opens racism wounds for European blacks

Police said on Twitter that they had intervened because the protests were technically outlawed under coronavirus-related measures. They also argued that the “tone” of the protest call aroused fears of trouble in a sensitive location.
By late evening, authorities said a few groups remained in the area and demanded that all demonstrators go home.

DW’s Paris correspondent Lisa Louis said the general feeling in France is that there has not been much change since the death of Traore. In the past few years, a number of demonstrations — in particular the yellow vest protests — have been marred by police violence.

“Parliament is even discussing a new law that would prohibit people from disseminating images of police officers,” Louis said. “Many people fear that would remove their protection against police violence.”

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    ‘I can’t breathe’

    Tense protests over decades of police brutality against black people have quickly spread from Minneapolis to cities across the US. The protests began in the Midwestern city earlier this week, after a police officer handcuffed and pressed a knee on the neck of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, until he stopped breathing and died.

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    A ‘gentle giant’

    Floyd grew up in Houston, Texas, and moved to Minneapolis in 2014 for work. Before his death, he was looking for work after having been laid off from his job as a security guard at a Latin bistro due to Minnesota’s stay-at-home coronavirus restrictions. Standing 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 meters) tall, his friends described him as a “gentle giant.”

  • A man pleads with officers as crowds protesting the killing of G. Floyd clash with police in the blocks just north of the White House

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    From peaceful to violent

    Protests were mostly peaceful on Saturday, though some became violent as the night wore on. In Washington, D.C., the National Guard was deployed outside the White House. At least one person died in shootings in downtown Indianapolis; police said no officers were involved. Officers were injured in Philadelphia, while in New York two NYPD vehicles lurched into a crowd, knocking people to the ground.

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    Shops destroyed, looted

    In Los Angeles, protesters faced off with officers with shouts of “Black Lives Matter!” as police confronted crowds with batons and rubber bullets. In some cities including LA, Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis, protests have turned into riots, with people looting and destroying local shops and businesses.

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    ‘When the looting starts…’

    President Donald Trump has threatened to send in the military to quell the protests, saying his “administration will stop mob violence and will stop it cold.” Trump’s response has inflamed tensions across the country. He blamed the rioting on alleged far-left groups, but Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told reporters he had heard multiple unconfirmed reports of white supremacists stoking the violence.

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    Media in the crosshairs

    Many journalists covering the protests have found themselves targeted by law enforcement. On Friday, CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and his crew were arrested while covering the story in Minneapolis, and several reporters have been hit with projectiles or detained while on air. DW’s Stefan Simons was fired at by police twice as he reported on the unrest over the weekend.

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    Going global

    North of the US border, in Canada, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Vancouver and Toronto. In Berlin, American expats and other demonstrators gathered outside the US Embassy. In London, protesters kneeled in Trafalgar Square before marching past the Houses of Parliament and stopping at the British capital’s US Embassy.

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    At Trump’s front door

    Protests raged in the US capital, Washington, after the district began its 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on Sunday. More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, with some lighting fires outside the president’s residence. The New York Times reported that Secret Service had brought Trump into a bunker as a safety precaution.

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    Curfews in major US cities

    Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Detroit, Washington D.C. and other US cities extended curfews as protests entered a sixth night on Sunday. The state of Arizona in the west instituted a statewide, weeklong curfew after demonstrators clashed with police. Around 5,000 troops from the National Guard also have been deployed in 15 US states.

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    Trump threatens to bring in US military

    In the face of renewed protests on Monday, Trump threatened to deploy the military if states failed to “defend their residents.” As he made his remarks, security authorities used tear gas and rubber bullets to force protesters from nearby Lafayette Park. Trump then walked from his residence to a church in the park, where he held a Bible aloft during a photo opportunity.

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    Peaceful demonstrations

    Many protests in the US have remained peaceful, with groups of demonstrators standing together against police brutality. In Manhattan’s Times Square on Monday, protesters lay on the ground with their hands behind their back, mimicking the position Floyd was in when he was killed. Though some people have resorted to violence, several US mayors and governors have praised the protests.

    Author: Martin Kuebler


Traore — a French citizen — died shortly after his arrest in 2016. His family says he died from asphyxiation in the hands of police and, echoing Floyd, that his last words were: “I can’t breathe.”

Investigations into Traore’s death are still ongoing four years after his death due to conflicting medical reports. 

The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved claims that Traore didn’t die as a result of the conditions of his arrest but due to a pre-existing medical condition. 

rt/ls (AP, dpa)

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