PARIS (Reuters) – Police fired tear gas at protesters in Nantes on Saturday as skirmishes broke out on the fringes of a demonstration and tributes to a young concert-goer who disappeared and drowned in the western French city.
The body of 24-year-old Steve Canico was found in the Loire river on Tuesday, 38 days after a run-in between police and late-night revellers by the riverbank in Nantes.
Tributes to Canico earlier in the day coincided with calls for a broader march to denounce police brutality, attended by several hundred people.
A small group of protesters, some wearing bandanas on their faces and masks, used chairs to erect barricades in a square and set fire to a pile of debris as they squared up to police, French television showed.
Authorities had shut some parts of the city centre ahead of the demonstrations, fearing unrest if so-called black bloc hooligans joined the march. “Yellow vest” protesters, who have led anti-government marches for several months across France, had also called on social media for people to join the protests.
Canico’s death has revived anger and scrutiny over policing methods in France. French authorities had been already criticised by rights groups for excessive use of force and crowd control weapons during the “yellow vest” demonstrations.
His disappearance coincided with the night of June 21 to 22 when police fired tear gas to disperse party-goers and end scuffles after a late-night open-air techno concert ran over its allotted time. Fourteen people fell into the river.
Canico’s body was found by a boatman about 1 km downstream, following five weeks of protests and calls of “Where Is Steve” on social media.
On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe released a report saying no link had been found between the police intervention and Canico’s disappearance.
(Reporting by Sarah White and Caroline Pailliez; Editing by Angus MacSwan)