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French anti-racism protests defy police ban over the 2016 death of a black in police custody

Thousands of people have joined protests in France over the 2016 death of a black man in police custody, defying police orders not to assemble due to coronavirus restrictions.

The death of Adama Traoré, 24, has been likened to the killing of George Floyd in the US, whose death has sparked protests across the country.

Police clashed with protesters in the Paris suburbs on Tuesday.

The Paris police chief has rejected charges of racism against his force.

About 20,000 people defied the order on mass gatherings to join the protest. Initially peaceful, the march turned violent, with stones thrown at police and tear gas fired back.

There were also demonstrations in other cities, including Marseille, Lyon and Lille. Some of the demonstrators carried Black Lives Matter placards – the movement that began in the US and has spread internationally.

Mr Traoré died in a police station after being apprehended by officers in the Paris suburbs and losing consciousness in their vehicle.

One of the officers told investigators that he and two colleagues pinned down Mr Traoré using their bodyweight.

Official reports indicate he died of heart failure, possibly due to an underlying health condition. Last Thursday, the officers who detained Mr Traoré were exonerated by a police investigation.

Following his death in 2016, violent protests were seen in Paris for several days.

His case has become a rallying cry against police brutality in France, which young ethnic minority communities say targets them.

On Tuesday campaigners defied authorities, after their request for permission to protest was denied by police.

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Public gatherings are limited to 10 people to control the spread of coronavirus.

Video showed police firing tear gas at crowds in Paris, as well as several fires and blocked roads.Skip Twitter post by @Raph_journalistRaphaël MAILLOCHON@Raph_journalist

#AdamaTraoré : premières tensions au pied du TGI de Paris. Jets de projectiles, barricades. Les FDO répliquent avec du gaz lacrymogène. Mouvement de foule.

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“Today we are not just talking about the fight of the Traoré family. It is the fight for everyone. When we fight for George Floyd, we fight for Adama Traoré,” his sister, Assa, told the protest, according to AFP.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement defended his force against allegations of brutality and racism.

In a letter to police officers, he said he sympathised with the “pain” they must feel “faced with accusations of violence and racism, repeated endlessly by social networks and certain activist groups”.

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