Mass Marches Protest Racism

Demonstrations across France were sparked by the police killing of 17-year-old during a traffic stop
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 23, 2023 1:35 PM CDT
Mass Marches in France Protest Racism, Police Brutality
Police officers guard a bank Saturday after the windows were smashed during a protest in Paris.   (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

Families, community groups, and far-left activists marched in cities around France on Saturday to decry racism and police brutality, putting authorities on edge at a time when French police are deployed in force for a string of high-security events. Lingering anger over the killing by police of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in June was an impetus for Saturday's protests, but they included groups with disparate demands for immigrants' rights, affordable housing, and economic justice. More than 100 marches were planned around France, the AP reports, and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered special police vigilance.

Tensions briefly flared at the largely peaceful, boisterous protest in Paris. Members of the crowd smashed windows of a bank along the march route, and police evacuated the rattled employees. At another spot, protesters surrounded a police car and an officer darted out, waving his gun. Some 30,000 police and gendarmes were working Saturday to keep order for a visit by Pope Francis to Marseille and at three Rugby World Cup matches, according to the interior minister's office. The security presence was also reinforced for the three-day visit of Britain's King Charles and Queen Camilla, which wrapped up Friday evening.

The protesters' demands include tougher rules limiting the use of firearms by police, an independent body to replace the internal agency tasked with investigating police abuses, and massive state investment in low-income neighborhoods. Marchers lamented what they feel has been a failure to address problems exposed by the killing of Merzouk, a French-born youth of north African descent, in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. He was stopped by two officers, who subsequently said he'd been driving dangerously, then killed by a shot through his left arm and chest. The officer who fired faces a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide, per the AP. Merzouk's death unleashed violent protests in Nanterre that spread and morphed into nationwide riots. Mass police deployment quelled the mayhem, but tensions linger.

(Read more France stories.)

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