Paris police fire tear gas at protesters as George Floyd rallies spread across globe

2 June 2020, 22:23

French police fired tear gas at protesters in Paris
French police fired tear gas at protesters in Paris. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Riot police in Paris have fired tear gas at protesters following demonstrations against the death of George Floyd in the US.

A peaceful rally of several thousand people gathered for two hours at the main Paris courthouse earlier on Tuesday as outrage over the death of the African-American Mr Floyd spread across the globe.

The protesters also paid tribute to a separate black French man, Adama Traore, who also died in police custody.

Authorities had banned the demonstration due to restrictions in place following the coronavirus pandemic - such as gatherings of more than 10 people being forbidden.

As the protest died down, officers began firing tear gas while demonstrators could be seen throwing debris and setting small fires across the French capital.

Dominique Sopo, head of French activist group SOS Racisme, explained why rallies had extended to the streets of France.

"When you refuse to treat the problem of racism... it leads to what we see in the United States," he said.

"The case of George Floyd echoes what we fear in France."

Read more: Police targeted with officer shot dead as Black Lives Matter protests sweep US

Read more: President Trump says New York is 'lost' to 'lowlifes and scum' amid protests

Mr Floyd died last week after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

His death sparked protests that spread across the US and beyond.

Tensions also erupted at a related protest in the southern French city of Marseille.

Demonstrations were also held in other parts of the country in honour of Mr Traore, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016.

Small fires were lit up across the French capital
Small fires were lit up across the French capital. Picture: PA
Thousands took to the streets of Paris to protest against the deaths of George Floyd and Adama Traore
Thousands took to the streets of Paris to protest against the deaths of George Floyd and Adama Traore. Picture: PA

The Traore case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in France. The circumstances of the 24-year-old Frenchman's death, who was of Malian origin, are still under investigation after four years of conflicting medical reports.

His family say he died from asphyxiation because of police tactics and that his last words were "I can't breathe," much like those of Mr Floyd.

"I can't breathe" were also the final words of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.

Earlier on Tuesday, roughly 3,000 marched peacefully through Sydney, Australia's largest city, chanting "I can't breathe".

Many said they had been inspired by a mixture of sympathy for African Americans amid ongoing violent protests in the US and to call for change in Australia's treatment of its indigenous population, particularly involving police.

A total of 432 indigenous Australians have died in police detention since a 1991 Royal Commission - Australia's highest level of official inquiry - into Aboriginal deaths in custody, according to The Guardian.

Another protest is planned in the Dutch capital The Hague, and more than 6,000 people attended a Sweden-organised online protest to express support with the Black Lives Matter movement, under the banner of #BlackOutTuesday.

More protests in various countries are planned later in the week, including a string of demonstrations in front of US embassies on Saturday.

As protests escalated worldwide, solidarity with US demonstrators increasingly mixed with local issues.

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