French protesters decry racism, other systemic injustices

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France Health Care Protest

French activists of Attac stage a flash protest outside the French Health Ministry in support of medical workers, in Paris, France, Saturday, June 20, 2020. French hospital workers and others are protesting to demand better pay and more investment in France’s public hospital system, which is considered among the world’s best but struggled to handle a flux of virus patients after years of cost cuts. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

PARIS (AP) — Hundreds of people in protested Saturday in Paris against racism and police violence and in memory of Black men who died following encounters with French police or under suspicious circumstances.

The protesters marched to the former home of Lamine Dieng, a 25-year-old Franco-Senegalese man arrested in 2007 who died in a police van. Thousands of other protesters marched Saturday in Paris and cities around France in support of undocumented migrants.

“I hope, that this is not just a moment of brief awareness,” Dieng’s sister Ramata Dieng told The Associated Press. “We have dreamed for a long time of seeing this many people mobilizing on this issue.”

“This can’t stop at indignation. It’s fine to be indignant but we must move to the next step and the next step is to put implement the tools, have laws voted on so that police are no longer above the law,” she said.

The French government agreed earlier this month to pay 145,000 euros ($162,000) to Dieng’s relatives in a settlement via the European Court of Human Rights, after the family tried for more than a decade to hold police accountable for his death.

Many at Saturday’s protest linked it with the case of of George Floyd, an African American man whose death on May 25 in the U.S. city of Minneapolis galvanized protesters around the globe to rally against racism and police brutality.

“George Floyd was the hair that broke the camel’s back in the United States, but it’s not just George Floyd,” demonstrator Lylia Boukerrouche.

“In France, though it’s different, it’s a similar situation. It was a colonial state, and we see that today police violence occurs against Blacks and Arabs, the descendants of immigrants,” Boukerrouche added.

Some demonstrators carried placards bearing the words “Justice For Ibo,” a reference to Ibrahima Bah, 22, who died in an October motorbike crash in the Paris suburbs of Villiers-le-Bel wile allegedly trying to escape a police check. Bah’s family blames the police for his death.

The protests Saturday in Paris for Dieng and undocumented migrants were authorized by French authorities, who have been exercising caution over protests in recent weeks as the country emerges from coronavirus restrictions.

Other protests on Saturday in the French capital were banned, including an anti-racism demonstration near the U.S. Embassy by the Black African Defense League, and another protest linked to recent violence involving Chechens in the French city of Dijon. Activists gathered anyway.

Separately, a small group of activists staged a flash protest Saturday outside the French Health Ministry in support of state medical workers, who are demanding higher pay and more hospital staff after France’s once-renowned health care system struggled to cope with the virus crisis following years of cost cuts.

The protesters sprayed red paint on the ministry building, symbolizing blood, and on a mock medal.

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Philippe Marion in Paris contributed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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