More than 2,000 people including several political leaders gathered in Paris on Tuesday evening to pay tribute to George Floyd, at the same time his funeral took place in Texas.
Leaders of France’s radical left France Unbowed party, as well the socialist, the communist and the green parties attended Tuesday’s gathering, called by the campaigning group SOS Racisme.
“There is a movement forming in the country against the horrible contamination of racism, where we wouldn’t want to see it, in an important body, the police,” said France Unbowed leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Placards carried by some of those present drew parallels between Floyd and people who have died at the hands of the French police recently.
Camelia Jordana – a singer and actress of Algerian descent who commented last month that thousands of people like her feared being “massacred” by the police – sang “We Shall Overcome” at the meeting.
Interior Minister Christope Castaner, who rowed with Jordana over her comment last month, has moved to address some concerns about the police.
He banned a chokehold used by officers and promising “zero tolerance” for racism in law enforcement.
Castaner has acknowledged that too many officers “have failed in their Republican duty” in recent weeks, with several instances of racist and discriminatory remarks revealed.
Dominique Sopo, the president of SOS Racisme, welcomed Castaner’s comments, saying it was understandable that citizens want the forces of order to be “beyond reproach.”
Tuesday’s demonstration went ahead despite the social distancing measures currently in force to prevent any resurgence of the coronavirus.
Castaner acknowleged that worldwide feeling was running so high on this issue as to over-ride such considerations.
Similar, smaller gatherings also took place in other cities across France.