PARIS – Hundreds of black-clad protesters clashed with officials during a demonstration against police violence in Paris on Saturday after masked protesters fired fireworks, erected barricades and threw stones.
The majority of the thousands of protesters marched peacefully, but small groups of masked protesters in black shattered shop windows set fire to two cars, a motorcycle and a cafe. The fires were quickly put out.
Police fired tear gas and drugged grenades to disperse the crowd. In the early evening, a water cannon sprayed remaining groups of protesters on Place de la Bastille.
The Interior Ministry said it counted 46,000 demonstrators in Paris. Police said they arrested nine people.
Thousands of people also marched in Lille, Rennes, Strasbourg and other cities.
The protests follow the release of footage showing music producer Michel Zecler, a black man, who was beaten by three police officers in Paris on November 21.
The incident also fueled anger over draft law restricting journalists’ right to report on police brutality.
The bill would make it a crime to distribute pictures of police officers under certain circumstances, which opponents say would limit the freedom of the press.
Many protesters carried placards with slogans such as “Who will protect us from the police?”, “Stop police violence” and “Democracy bludgeoned”.
The images of Zecler’s beating are widely spread on social media and in the French and foreign press. President Emmanuel Macron said Friday the images were shameful to France.
As part of an investigation into the beating, four police officers are being held for questioning.
“What is happening in Paris is extremely worrying and we cannot allow it to happen. I spent two years with the yellow vests and saw all the violence,” protester Caroline Schatz told Reuters at the Paris March.
The journalists’ organizations and civil rights groups that organized the marches were joined by radical left militants, environmental activists and “yellow vest” demonstrators. The yellow vests have been protesting against government policy for two years.