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Thousands protest racism in France despite Covid-19

Thousands of people have marched against police violence in Paris and elsewhere in France this weekend, as protests continue after the murder of unarmed black man George Floyd by police in the United States.

Protests continued despite authorities technically forbidding protests due to the health risk of Covid-19.

According to the ministry of the interior, 23,300 people protested across France, including 5,500 in Paris.

Read more: How can I know the real number of protestors?

In the capital, one protest took place in front of the US Embassy, and another later took place on the Champs-de-Mars by the Eiffel Tower.

While the protests were linked to the death of George Floyd, hundreds also continued to call for justice for Adama Traoré.

Adama Traoré died at the age of 24 after being arrested in Persan (Val-d’Oise) in 2016.

The cause of Mr Traoré’s death is still contested in France.

However, when he was arrested, he was placed in a hold known as le plaquage ventral. This is similar to the hold George Floyd was placed in when he died, with his chest to the ground, being restrained by the bodyweight of police officers. 

After being arrested, Mr Traoré lost consciousness while in the police vehicle and later died in a nearby police station.

His sister, Assa Traoré, has been vocal about his death, and was present at protests in Paris earlier in the week (one June 3).

Read more: 20,000 protest police violence in France

One protester, Nadine, who was at the march on June 6, said: “I have had racist comments my whole life, including at work, That is just life for us, to be a black French person living in France is not easy.”


Countrywide protests

Protests across the country denounced “racism” and “impunity” among the police force.

In Bordeaux, at least 2,500 people protested peacefully, and also held a minute of silence. Some knelt on the ground and raised their fists.

In Lyon, several thousand were counted in the town centre.

Arkya Sedime, a member of an Afro-descendant association, said: “France is drowning in racism. We are denouncing police violence and the silence and denial of institutions.”

In Rennes, there were between 700-1,000 protesters, many of whom marched with Awa Gueye, the sister of Babacar Gueye, who was killed aged 27, during a police intervention in Rennes in 2015.

Smaller protests were held in Metz - where some violence erupted - in Nancy and Béziers.

There were also marches in Marseille and Lille.

Previous protests had already taken place in Strasbourg and Clermont-Ferrand.

Racism inquiry

The protests come as French interior minister Christophe Castaner announced the opening of an inquiry into a Facebook Group in which thousands of police officers allegedly exchanged racist messages.

The issue was reported by online site StreetPress, who revealed the existence of a Facebook Group named “TN Rabiot Police Officiel” with 7,760 members - apparently of police and law enforcement officials - in which racist, sexist and homophobic comments were allegedly regularly exchanged and published.

A preliminary investigation has been opened by the Paris Public Prosecutor's Office for "public insult of a racist nature" and "public incitement to racial hatred".

On Wednesday June 3, Mr Castaner told the Senate: "Every fault, every excess, every word, including racist expressions attributable to the forces of law and order, will be investigated, decided and punished”.

Related stories

Sanctions promised for French police racism

Police criticised as France marches for Women’s Day

Paris mayor hopeful calls for new armed police force

Policing of marches ‘eroding civil rights’ in France

Paris mayor: ‘Police violence makes protest difficult’

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