Protesters used slogans from the American protest movement to call for justice for Adama Traore, whose death four years ago was a rallying ground against police violence in France.
The demonstration, which took place after the publication of two different medical reports on the cause of Traore’s death, had been banned by the police, citing a ban on the coronavirus on gatherings of more than 10 people.
The protest began in the late afternoon before the Paris North Court, before projectiles were launched and the police used tear gas to disperse the crowd, AFP journalists reported.
Sporadic clashes broke out near the city’s main ring road, with stones thrown at the police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets.
Some protesters burned garbage cans, bicycles and scooters to set up burning barricades in the streets.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner replied that “violence has no place in a democracy”.
“There is nothing to justify the behavior that took place in Paris this evening, when demonstrations on public streets are prohibited to protect the health of all,” he tweeted.
Many protesters were inspired by the protest movement that raged across the United States following the police murder last week of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, brandishing slogans in English such as “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe”.
Earlier in the day, Traore’s older sister Assa spoke to the large crowd.
“Today we’re not just talking about the Traore family’s struggle. This is the fight for everyone. When we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traoré, ”she said.
“What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France.”
Other protests took place across France, with 2,500 people participating in a rally in the city of Lille in the north of the country, 1,800 in Marseille and 1,200 in Lyon.
The Traoré affair has long been controversial in France.
Following a dispute over an identity check, 24-year-old Traore was arrested in a house where he hid after leading the police in a 15-minute chase in 2016.
One of the three officers who made the arrest told investigators that they had nailed Traore to their combined body weight.
Traoré lost consciousness in his vehicle and died in a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when the paramedics arrived.
French medical experts on Friday exonerated the three police officers, claiming that Traoré had not died of “positional suffocation”, excluding the police officers who had grounded him as the cause of his death.
Instead, experts discovered that Traore died of heart failure likely caused by underlying health conditions against a background of “intense stress” and physical exertion, as well as the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol – the active ingredient in cannabis – in his body.
The findings, the officers’ third official clarification report, dismissed a previous medical report commissioned by the boy’s family who said he died of suffocation.
But on Tuesday, a new investigation commissioned by the Traore family said his death was due to the arrest technique used by the police.
Conflicting medical reports also echo the case of George Floyd, whose preliminary autopsy said he died of pre-existing heart problems, while an autopsy organized by his family revealed that he died of suffocation from sustained pressure.
Floyd’s official autopsy then confirmed that he died in a homicide involving “cervical compression”.
Paris police chief Didier Lallement, who banned the protest, wrote a letter to police earlier today to defend their conduct.
He said he sympathized with the “pain” that the officers must feel “in the face of accusations of violence and racism, endlessly repeated by social networks and certain militant groups”.
The Paris police “are neither violent nor racist: they act within the framework of the right to liberty for all,” he insisted in an email sent to the 27,500 police officers in the city.