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Protests in France: Interior minister condemns violence after 62 police officers injured

France's interior ministry said 62 police officers were injured and 81 people arrested during the nationwide protests against police violence on Saturday as a press freedom group denounced the "unacceptable" injury of an award-winning Syrian photojournalist.

Protests in France: Interior minister condemns violence after 62 police officers injured
French riot police officers take position next to a burning barricade during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, restricting sharing images of officers. November 28, 2020.AFP

Violent clashes erupted in Paris Saturday as tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against new security legislation, with tensions intensified by the police beating and racial abuse of a black music producer that shocked France.

Several fires were started in Paris, sending acrid smoke into the air, as protesters vented their anger against the security law which would restrict the publication of police officers' faces.

The interior ministry said that 46,000 people marched in Paris and 133,000 in total nationwide, while organisers said the figure was 500,000 nationwide and 200,000 in Paris.

A press freedom group has denounced the “unacceptable” injury of an award-winning Syrian photojournalist during a Paris protest against police brutality while France's interior ministry said 62 police officers were injured and 81 people arrested during the nationwide protests.

Ameer Alhalbi, a freelance photographer who worked for Polka Magazine and AFP, was covering the weekend demonstrations opposing police violence and the French government's new law restricting sharing images of officers.

In AFP photos Alhalbi's face appears bruised with much of his head covered in bandages.

A firefighter carries on a stretcher Syrian freelance photographer Ameer Al Halbi who was injured during clashes in a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, restricting sharing images of officers.
Gabrielle Cézard / AFP

Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, tweeted that the 24-year-old had been wounded at Place de la Bastille by “a police baton” and condemned the violence.

“Ameer came from #Syria to #France to take refuge, like several other Syrian journalists. The land of human rights should not threaten them, but protect them,” he said in a second tweet.

Deloire also noted Alhalbi had been clearly identified as a journalist.

Dimitri Beck, director of photography for Polka, said that Alhalbi had suffered a broken nose and injured forehead, and had been taken to hospital.

A statement from Polka magazine also condemned the “police aggression” against Alhalbi. The magazine's Director of Publication Alain Genestar said the incident was “all the more shocking and reprehensible” because he was clearly identified as a press photographer.

Phil Chetwynd, AFP's global news director has urged the police to investigate. “We are shocked by the injuries suffered by our colleague Ameer al-Halbi and condemn the unprovoked violence,”

“We demand the police investigate this serious incident and ensure all journalists are allowed to carry out their work without fear or restrictions,” said Chetwynd.

Alhalbi has won several international awards, including second prize in the “Spot News” category for the World Press Photo in 2017, mainly for his coverage of the Syrian conflict in his home city Aleppo for AFP.

Police said on Sunday that two demonstrators had complained of being hurt by officers in protests outside Paris, while no count had yet been made in the capital itself.

Some 62 police officers were injured during the Saturday demonstrations, the interior ministry said, while 81 people were arrested.

A French riot police officer lies on the ground after falling during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, which Article 24 would criminalise the publication of images of on-duty police officers with the intent of harming their 'physical or psychological integrity', in Paris, on November 28, 2020.  THOMAS COEX / AFP

Protesters throw a firework to riot police officers during a demonstration against the 'global security' draft law, November 28, 2020. THOMAS COEX / AFP

A number of videos shared online showed marchers beating police officers.

France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Saturday condemned “unacceptable” violence against police in protests nationwide.

EXPLAINEDThe new French law that restricts photos and videos of police officers

UPDATE: Thousands protest across France against police violence

 

 

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PROTESTS

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.

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