Cars were set alight and the Central Bank of France building was hit with a fire missile in Paris Saturday as tens of thousands of protesters took to city streets throughout France to block a security bill that seeks to prevent reporters from covering police brutality.
Violent demonstrators demanding a free press clashed with police who lobbed tear gas to disperse crowds, according to reports.
The draft legislation would make it a crime to publish photos or video of police officers with the intent of harming their “physical or psychological integrity.” The French government said the law is needed to protect police against increasingly violent attacks.
Mostly peaceful protests have been going on for the past week after a video of police allegedly beating Michel Zecler, a black music producer, sparked outrage over the draft law.
But the demonstrations turned violent in Paris Saturday as some protesters began pelting police with rocks and paving stones, AP reported. Shocking images on social media showed protestors in the French capital setting furniture and vehicles on fire as police blocked access to parts of the city.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted that 37 police officers had been injured in the melee. “I again condemn the unacceptable violence against the police,” he tweeted.
At Paris’s Republique square, nearly 50,000 demonstrators assembled carrying red union flags, French tricolor flags and hand-made signs denouncing police violence and calling for the resignation of French President Emmanuel Macron and Daramin, AP reported.
“We have to broaden the debate, and by doing that, we say that if there were no police violence, we wouldn’t have to film violent policemen,” said Assa Traore, an anti-police-brutality activist whose brother died in police custody in 2016.
Although journalists have been among the most outspoken over the security bill, it could have an even greater impact on the efforts of non-journalists who film police during violent arrests using cellphone video, activists said.
“There were all those protests in the summer against police violence, and this law shows the government didn’t hear us,” protester Kenza Berkane, 26, told the AP. “It’s the impunity. That’s what makes us so angry.”