Paris has once again seen clashes between police and protesters as large crowds hit the streets of the French capital for the fifth-weekend running to rally against the government’s proposed security reforms.
Police took some 150 people into custody at what quickly became a tense and sometimes ill-tempered affair, with officers regularly and forcefully wading into the crowds of several thousand to haul away what authorities said was “suspected trouble-makers.”
The huge crowd had set out from the Place du Châtelet in the city center, just across the river from the iconic Ile de la Cite, heading towards Place de la Republique in the northeast.
One large banner read: “Stop freedom-killing laws, stop Islamophobia.”
Big police presence
A huge police contingent was deployed to the area, as previous, similar rallies in the French capital descended into riots.
Police made 24 arrests ahead of the protest, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin confirmed.
Tensions quickly rose as the protest march got underway as police repeatedly sought to disperse the crowd and make arrests.
Videos posted on social media show scuffles that escalated into violent clashes between officers and demonstrators on several occasions. At some point, protesters also set a scooter on fire and left it in the middle of a street.
French media reported, citing Interior Ministry sources, that the number of arrests in Paris had surpassed 100.
Rallies across France
Paris was not the only city to witness demonstrations on Saturday.
Rallies were organized in most of France’s large cities, including Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, Toulouse and Strasbourg.
Those, however, were largely peaceful and passed without any incidents.
France has seen a wave of protests after President Emmanuel Macron’s government introduced a draft bill that would provide law enforcement with additional surveillance powers.
The security bill’s most contested measure – Article 24 – could make it more difficult to film police officers. It aims to outlaw the publication of images with the intent to cause harm to police.
Critics fear it could erode media freedom and make it more difficult to expose police brutality.
The government has promised to “rewrite” the controversial article but the protesters say that is not enough.