Violence erupted in Paris last night after thousands of demonstrators turned up at a banned protest against alleged racist policing in support of two black men separately killed in police custody.
Projectiles including fireworks were also being thrown at the police, who estimated the crowd number at 20,000.
‘Gangs are getting on to the road and stopping the traffic too,’ said a demonstrator at the scene. ‘The fires are huge – it’s getting very ugly indeed.’
With the demonstration winding down, police fired tear gas and protesters could be seen throwing debris. Two small fires broke out, and green and grey barriers surrounding a construction site were knocked over.
Tensions also erupted at a related protest in the southern city of Marseille. French protests sometimes degenerate into violence by a few rowdy demonstrators.
In a sign of solidarity, demonstrations were also held in other French cities in honour of Traore, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016, and in solidarity with Americans demonstrating against Floyd’s death.
The Traore case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in France. The circumstances of the death of the 24-year-old Frenchman of Malian origin are still under investigation after four years of conflicting medical reports about what happened.
Mr Traore had run away from a police check in Beaumont-sur-Oise, a town north of Paris, and hours later died at a nearby police station.
The vague circumstances of the incident have led to allegations of a state cover-up, and his family have been fighting for justice ever since.
Riot police fired tear gas as scattered protesters pelted them with debris and set fires outside the Tribunal de Paris courthouse, at the tail-end of a demonstration against racial injustice and heavy-handed police tactics.
Several thousand people had previously rallied peacefully for two hours outside the courthouse as global outrage over the death of George Floyd in the Minnesota kindled frustrations across borders and continents.
The protest was originally planned for Tuesday evening by supporters of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old black Frenchman of Malian origin who died in similar circumstances to Mr Floyd in July 2016.
But Didier Lallement, the Paris police prefect, said it could not go ahead because of Coronavirus restrictions on public demonstrations that forbid any gathering of more than 10 people.
He also said feared disturbances, and later added that police in the Paris regions were ‘neither violent nor racist’.
But huge crowds turned up anyway, undeterred by the warning, and by 9.30pm fires had been lit underneath the Boulevard Périphérique, the ring road around the French capital.