Thousands of people rallied against the controversial bill in more than 70 French cities on Saturday
Violent clashes and arson have erupted in Paris amid mass protests against police brutality and a draft law that would ban filming officers “in certain circumstances,” after a video emerged of cops beating a black music producer.
Thousands of people rallied against the controversial bill in more than 70 French cities on Saturday, with the organizers claiming over half a million participants and authorities estimating the number at around 150,000. The daytime rallies went off peacefully, but by early evening clashes erupted in multiple cities, including Rennes, Lille, Bordeaux and Lyon.
Paris descended into chaos, forcing police to deploy tear gas, flashbangs and water cannon after black-clad masked protesters launched fireworks and pelted cops with stones.
Multiple videos also showed rioters smashing vehicles and shop windows, and torching cars and a motorcycle.
At one point, protesters set the entrance to France’s central bank on fire, while firefighters struggled to reach the scene through the streets blocked by police fencing, makeshift barricades and burning trash.
Sporadic clashes with smaller groups continued into the night, long after the bulk of the demonstrators had left the Place de la Bastill, with hundreds of officers in full riot gear seen chasing protesters down side streets, struggling to contain the unrest.
While it was not clear how many protesters were injured in clashes, local media reported at least 37 officers received injuries across France, while making at least 46 arrests.
The demonstrators are voicing their anger over a draft law on public security, which was approved by the lower chamber of parliament this week. The controversial Article 24 of the bill seeks to protect police officers from doxing and harassment, and bans filming of cops on duty and sharing their images online with the “intent to harm.”
Critics say the bill infringes on journalistic freedom and would be used to intimidate those who want to expose police brutality and other misconduct. One such incident went viral this week after footage emerged showing French police beat and racially abuse a black man, apparently for not wearing a face mask.