French police and protesters clash in Nantes over man's death

Anti-criminality brigade (BAC) police officers arrest a man during a gathering in Nantes
Anti-criminality brigade (BAC) police officers arrest a man during a gathering in Nantes
By Alice Tidey  with Reuters

The death of 24-year-old Steve Maia Canico in June has once again sparked a debate over police accountability and brutality in France.

Police and protesters clashed in the French city of Nantes on Saturday during a demonstration honouring a young concert-goer who drowned in the city.

Some protesters erected barricades in parts of the city while police fired tear gas and fire-fighters were called upon to put out several blazes. Traffic was interrupted and authorities called on people to avoid the affected areas.

Steve Maia Canico, 24, was last seen at around 4.30 am on June 22 when local police tried to shut down a concert held by the riverbank in the western city of Nantes during the country's Fete de la Musique.

His body was recovered from the Loire river on Tuesday, sparking a #JusticepourSteve (Justice for Steve) movement, shining renewed light on police accountability and brutality.

Read more: People demand #JusticeforSteve after French festival-goer's body found

A preliminary investigation from the IGPN, the police's police, cleared the local force from using excessive force but protesters want a parliamentary inquiry with a petition denouncing Canico's death as "a disturbing emblem of an increasingly authoritarian and repressive management of law and order".

Ahead of the protest, the Prefecture for the Loire had shut down large swathes of the city, citing "high risks of public disorder on the sidelines of the rally".

Authorities said they expected so-called 'Black Blocs' — individuals usually close to anarchist movements who consider violence as a legitimate means of political action — to join the rally and banned people from carrying, buying or selling fireworks, "anything that can be used as a weapon", and fuel.

Read more: Yellow vests, Black Blocs, casseurs: what's the difference? Euronews explains

A union for police chiefs denounced the violence, saying that "the tribute for Steve Maia Canico was for some only a pretext to sack the city and aggress police forces. Saturday after Saturday, France is subjected to the diktat of anarchists."

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