Officers fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of protesters who marched in the western city of Nantes on Saturday to protest police use of force.
The demonstration followed the death of 24-year-old Steve Maia Canico, whose body was recovered Monday close to where he was last seen alive at a dance party by the Loire River on June 22. The exact circumstances of his death remain unclear, but more than a dozen people fell into the river when police moved in using tear gas to break up the party.
A peaceful demonstration on Saturday morning, during which hundreds stood in silence and threw flowers into the river, was followed by a larger protest later in the city center which drew 1,700 people, according to police.
Footage from this protest showed small groups of masked people using chairs to erect barricades, setting small fires and throwing projectiles at police. Authorities said they arrested about 40 people, mostly for carrying objects which could be used as weapons, or for acts of violence.
Death sparks nationwide concern
Canico’s death has become a rallying cry for those who criticize French police for using excessive force, including against yellow vest protesters who have led anti-government marches across the country during recent months. Demonstrations were also held on Saturday in other French cities, including Paris.
The dead man’s family, through their lawyer, have pleaded for calm and disassociated themselves from any violence.
In the month after Canico disappeared, posters were put up around Nantes asking, “Where is Steve?” During Saturday’s demonstration, people held placards reading “Who killed Steve?” and “Where is the justice for Steve?”
Authorities have come under fire over their handling of the case after an initial report said no direct link could be established between the police action at the music festival and Canico’s death.
French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has promised transparency about the police action. Several probes, including a judicial investigation, have been launched.
se/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)