On Saturday, September 23, thousands of French citizens took to the streets in a nationwide demonstration to protest against police violence, sparked by a left-wing group. The rally came less than three months after a police officer killed a young man during a traffic stop, leading to over a week of riots in France and other areas.
In the capital city, demonstrators of all ages carried posters with slogans such as ‘Stop State Violence,’ ‘Do Not Forgive or Forget,’ and ‘Prosecute Killers.’ The protesters particularly criticized Article 435-1 of the internal security regulations, which expands authorities’ discretion to use firearms when a suspect refuses to obey them. The demonstration also responded to calls from radical left-wing groups, including France Unbowed (LFI).
Labor unions estimated that around 80,000 people participated in protests across France, including 15,000 in Paris. However, the Ministry of the Interior reported a nationwide total of 31,300 protesters, with 9,000 of them in Paris.
A Personal Perspective
Among the demonstrators in the northern city of Lille was Mohamed Leknoun, 27, whose brother, Amine, was killed in August 2022 after refusing to comply with police orders. “All this injustice is destroying families,” he told AFP.
Leknoun expressed regret that he had not been informed of any progress in the investigation since the police officer who fired the fatal shot was charged.
In 2022, there were 38 deaths related to police actions in France, including 22 fatal shootings. Thirteen of these deaths were linked to cases where individuals refused to obey police orders.
In July, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, consisting of 18 independent experts, expressed concerns about the excessive use of force by law enforcement in France. They also called on the government to adopt laws that define and prohibit racial profiling.
The massive protests in France underscore the ongoing tension between the public and law enforcement agencies, particularly regarding allegations of excessive use of force and police violence.
The rallying cry for justice and accountability in these cases reflects a broader societal concern for transparency and fairness in policing. As these demonstrations continue to gain momentum, they prompt important discussions about reforming police practices and strengthening oversight to ensure that law enforcement agencies are held accountable for their actions.
The French government’s response to these protests and their demands will likely be closely scrutinized by both domestic and international observers, as they navigate the complex issues surrounding law enforcement, civil rights, and social justice.