Outrage over George Floyd’s death in the United States has rippled throughout the world, prompting messages of solidarity from far-flung countries and people to reflect on racial injustice and police violence in their own societies.
In France, Floyd’s death has reignited anger over the death of Adama Traoré, a black man who died in police custody four years ago, as well as decades of strained police relations with immigrant communities in Paris’ suburbs.
Thousands of French protesters defied a coronavirus-related ban on large gatherings on Tuesday evening to denounce Traoré’s death, speak out against racism and police violence and to pay homage to Floyd who died in custody in Minneapolis on May 25.
The demonstration Tuesday was also triggered by an independent autopsy report that found Traoré had died from a tackle to the stomach during his arrest.
In Paris, people initially gathered peacefully around the main courthouse holding signs that reflected those thousands of miles away in the United States, including “Black Lives Matter” and “without justice there is no peace.”
Police estimated that some 20,000 demonstrators descended onto the capital's streets despite concerns of coronavirus which had led the police to ban the protest. Gatherings of more than 10 people are currently banned in France as part of virus confinement measures.
Video circulated of protesters kneeling to pay their respects to Traoré who was aged 24 when he died.
"Today, it's not just the fight of the Traoré family, it's your fight with all of you,” Traoré’s sister, Assa told the crowd. “Today, when we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traoré.”
Later, however, after around two hours of calm, video circulated of at least two fires breaking out and reports of tear gas being fired. Paris police said at total of 18 arrests were made during the protest for vandalism.
Traoré’s case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in France.
The circumstances around his death are still under investigation after years of conflicting medical reports about what happened, according to the Associated Press.
Separately, tensions between police and residents of Paris’ suburbs, or banlieues, have been heightened by coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.
Protests on Tuesday also take place on the streets of Lyon, Marseille and Lille.
In Lyon, local media reported that tear gas had been fired and that protesters who also gathered near the main courthouse had been pushed back by security forces.
France’s Interior Minister, Chistophe Castaner, denounced some of the scenes witnessed in Paris.
“Violence has no place in democracy,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “Nothing justifies the outbreaks which happened this evening in Paris when public gatherings are prohibited to protect everyone’s health.”
Meanwhile, further protests have been planned throughout France this week against racism and police violence including in Paris, Strasbourg and Nice.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.