Hundreds of rallies were planned across the nation Saturday to protest legislation that would make it illegal to record video or take photos of police officers with “obvious intention to harm their physical and psychological integrity”, the BBC reported.
The law came under harsh criticism as a threat to freedom of the press, and was seen as a way to undermine efforts to document police brutality. Any offender could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to €45,000 (or $54,000).
The situation intensified after three White police officers a week earlier were captured on video beating a Black music producer; four officers were charged in connection with the incident, according to DW.
Ahead of the protests on Saturday, the U.S. Embassy issued a security alert, warning that “similar demonstrations in Paris turned violent last weekend.”
“In case of violence or property damage, French authorities may use chemical agents and water cannons to disperse crowds,” the notice stated.
Protests began peacefully on Saturday, but groups of rioters dressed in black and wearing face coverings began to launch projectiles at police. Police responded by firing tear gas.
Members of the anti-government Yellow Vest movement took part in the demonstrations, Al Jazeera reported. Some shouted, “Everyone hates the police.”
Rioters smashed in windows of supermarkets and broke into a bank, while others set cars on fire along Avenue Gambetta on their way to the central Place de la Republique.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Twitter that 22 people were detained over the incidents.
Members of President Emmanuel Macron’s party have promised to “completely” rewrite part of the new law, however.
“We know that doubts persist about it…while we can never tolerate any reduction of press freedom or images,” said Christophe Castaner, a leader of Macron’s centrist MPs in parliament.