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Clashes break out as thousands march against police violence in France

French police attack demonstrators attending a protest rally against police violence, in the capital Paris, on Saturday, September 23, 2023. (via AFP)

Tens of thousands of people marched in France on Saturday to protest police violence in demonstrations organized by the left, with clashes breaking out on the margins of the Paris rally.

The nationwide protest came just under three months after the point-blank killing by a policeman of a youth outside Paris at a traffic check sparked over a week of rioting in Paris and elsewhere.

In Paris, demonstrators of all ages held up placards proclaiming "Stop state violence," "Don't forgive or forget" or "The law kills," with a statue of justice with its eyes crossed out in red.

The demonstrators took particular aim at Article 435-1 of the internal security code, introduced in 2017, which extends the possibility for the forces of law and order to shoot in the event of a suspect's refusal to comply.

The demonstrators were responding to a call by the radical left, including the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).

Unions said some 80,000 people joined the protests across France, including 15,000 in Paris, but the interior ministry put the number at 31,300 nationwide, with 9,000 in Paris.

'Unacceptable violence'

The government denounced "unacceptable violence" on the margins of the march in Paris, after officers were trapped in their police vehicle when it was attacked, an AFP correspondent said.

Hundreds of people wearing black and putting on hoods broke away from the main march of several thousand people in Paris, smashing the windows of a bank branch and throwing objects at a police car stuck in traffic.

Paris police said the police car was attacked with a crowbar and only the intervention of an anti-riot police unit allowed the release of the vehicle, with three officers slightly injured.

A video later published by the BFMTV channel and shared on the internet showed a group of masked protesters running after the car, repeatedly kicking it as one man smashed a window with a crowbar.

An officer got out and brandished his service weapon, but did not fire it and got back in the vehicle.

"We see where anti-police hatred leads," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin wrote on X, formerly called Twitter, denouncing "unacceptable violence" against the police.

Paris police chief, Laurent Nunez, said three people had been arrested over the incident.

Another three were arrested elsewhere in France, according to the interior ministry.

'Injustice destroys families'

Among those marching in the northern city of Lille was 27-year-old Mohamed Leknoun, whose brother Amine was killed in August 2022 after refusing to obey police orders.

"All this injustice destroys families," he told AFP.

He deplored the fact that he had not been informed of any progress in the investigation since the police officer who fired the fatal shot was indicted.

The march came days after the IGPN, the inspectorate responsible for investigating police misconduct, released its annual report on the use of force by officers.

It showed that in 2022, 38 people died as a result of police action, including 22 who were shot dead. Thirteen of those deaths involved cases of someone refusing to comply with a police order.

(Source: AFP)

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