French protesters decry racism, other systemic injustices

The Associated Press

Paris – Hundreds of people in Paris protested Saturday against racism and police violence and in memory of Black men who died following encounters with French police or under suspicious circumstances.

Many protesters congregated in the central Place de la Republique. Some carried a placard bearing the words “Justice For Ibo,” a reference to Ibrahima Bah, 22, who died in an October motorbike crash in the Paris suburbs of Villiers-le-Bel wile allegedly trying to escape a police check. Bah’s family blames the police for his death.

Demonstrators gather outside the police station where Lamine Dieng, a 25-year-old Franco-Senegalese who died in a police van after being arrested in 2007, was arrested during a protest in his memory in Paris, Saturday, June 20, 2020.

The protesters marched to the former home of Lamine Dieng, a 25-year-old Franco-Senegalese man arrested in 2007 who died in a police van. A separate demonstration in support of undocumented workers that drew hundreds of protesters planned to join up with the anti-racism march.

Last week, it emerged that the French government agreed to pay 145,000 euros ($162,000) to Dieng’s relatives after protracted legal wrangling.

“We are here to show that from now on we are going to create a resistance movement…and that there should be no more Lamine Diengs,” Franco Lollia of the the Brigade Anti-Negrophobie, a French activist group, said at Saturday’s demonstration.

Others linked the protest with the case of of George Floyd, an African American man whose death in the U.S. city of Minneapolis galvanized protesters around the globe to rally against racism and police brutality.

“It’s a reality we hear that there are people currently who are killed by the police. George Floyd was the hair that broke the camel’s back in the United States, but it’s not just George Floyd,” demonstrator Lylia Boukerrouche.

“In France, though it’s different, it’s a similar situation. It was a colonial state, and we see that today police violence occurs against Blacks and Arabs, the descendants of immigrants,” Boukerrouche added.

Demonstrations have erupted across the globe decrying racism and police brutality after the brutal death in the United States last month of Black American George Floyd.

In Paris, both of Saturday’s protests were authorized by French authorities, who have been exercising caution over protests in recent weeks as the country emerges from coronavirus restrictions.

Other protests on Saturday in the French capital have, however, been banned, including an anti-racism demonstration near the U.S. Embassy by the Black African Defense League, and another protest linked to recent violence involving Chechens in the French city of Dijon.

A small group of activists staged a flash protest Saturday outside the French Health Ministry in support of state medical workers, who are demanding higher pay and more hospital staff after France’s once-renowned health care system struggled to cope with the virus crisis following years of cost cuts.

The protesters sprayed red paint on the ministry building, symbolizing blood, and on a mock medal.