“Police everywhere, justice nowhere”, “police state” and “smile while you are beaten” were among the slogans brandished by protesters who marched from Place de la Republique to the nearby Place de la Bastille in Paris.
“We have felt for a long time to have been the victim of institutionalized racism from the police,” said Mohamed Magassa 35, who works in a reception centre for minors.
“But now we feel that this week all of France has woken up,” he told the AFP news agency.
“The fundamental and basic liberties of our democracy are being attacked – freedom of expression and information,” added Sophie Misiraca, 46, a lawyer.
“We have to broaden the debate, and by doing that, we say that if there were no police violence, we wouldn’t have to film violent policemen,” Assa Traore, a prominent anti-brutality activist whose brother died in police custody in 2016, told The Associated Press.
She was among at least 46,000 people who packed the sprawling Republique plaza and surrounding streets carrying red union flags, French tricolor flags and homemade signs denouncing police violence, demanding media freedom or calling for the resignation of French President Emmanuel Macron or his tough-talking interior minister, Gerald Darmanin.