Thousands of people rallied against police brutality and racism in European cities on Saturday, punctuating a week of protests across the continent, but far-right demonstrators also emerged in large groups for the first time — particularly in London — leading to sometimes violent confrontations that included attacks on police officers.
The anti-racism marches and rallies in Europe, energized by demonstrations in the United States in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, have led to destruction of statues linked to slavery and demands for a reckoning with racial discrimination. The European protesters have denounced the bigotry within their own countries and demanded that the authorities address it.
But Saturday was the first day when far-right groups and protesters, most of them white, fiercely pushed back. The situation grew especially tense in London, where crowds of white male counterprotesters clashed repeatedly with the police.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, who just a day earlier had criticized the anti-racism demonstrations and exhorted Britons to avoid them, denounced the far-right attacks on the police as “racist thuggery.” Mr. Johnson said the protest marches had been subverted by violence and declared that “racism has no place in the U.K.”
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that more than 100 people had been arrested by day’s end for offenses that included “breach of the peace, violent disorder, assault on officers, possession of an offensive weapon, possession of class A drugs, and drunk and disorder.”
The protest and counterprotest came to an explosive head in Trafalgar Square, when small numbers of Black Lives Matter supporters and their antagonists threw bottles and booming fireworks against one another, while the police tried to separate them.
In Paris, some 15,000 people rallied to demand justice for Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old who died in 2016 after the police had arrested him. Amid the overwhelmingly young crowds, demonstrators waved signs reading “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter,” less than two weeks after 20,000 protesters had assembled in front of a Paris court for Mr. Traoré. The Saturday protests were organized by “The Truth For Adama,” an advocacy group led by Mr. Traoré’s sister, Assa Traoré. The rally remained largely peaceful, although police officers threw tear gas and clashed with protesters in the late afternoon.