Kurds, anti-racism groups rally in Paris after 3 killed in cultural centre shooting

Kurdish activists, left-wing politicians and anti-racism groups demonstrated Saturday in Paris after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural centre in an attack that prosecutors say was racially motivated.

69-year-old suspect in Friday's violence was charged last year with attacking migrants

A woman holds her fingers up in a 'V' symbol as her other hand clutches a picture of a man while surrounded by others holding pictures and flags.
A woman holds a photograph of one of the victims of a shooting at a Kurdish cultural centre as members of the Kurdish community gather at Place de la République square in Paris on Saturday. (Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters)

Kurdish activists, left-wing politicians and anti-racism groups demonstrated Saturday in Paris after three people were killed at a Kurdish cultural centre in an attack that prosecutors say was racially motivated.

The shooting in a bustling neighbourhood of central Paris also wounded three people, and stirred up concerns about hate crimes against minority groups at a time when far-right voices have gained prominence in France and around Europe in recent years.

The suspected attacker was wounded and is in custody. He is a 69-year-old Parisian who was charged last year with attacking migrants and was released earlier this month. He is facing potential charges of murder and attempted murder with a racist motive, the Paris prosecutor's office said Saturday.

Thousands gathered Saturday at the  Place de la République in eastern Paris, waving a colourful spectrum of flags representing Kurdish rights groups, political parties and other causes. The gathering was largely peaceful but some youths threw projectiles and skirmished with police firing tear gas. Some protesters shouted slogans against the Turkish government.

A group of people, some throwing stones, face off against police in riot gear on a street.
Demonstrators throw stones toward police officers during Saturday's protest against the shooting at the Kurdish culture centre in Paris. (Lewis Joly/The Associated Press)

Hate crimes on the rise

Most demonstrators were ethnic Kurds of varying generations who came together to mourn the three people who were killed, share concerns that they don't feel safe, and ask how could this kind of attack happen in the centre of Paris.

The shooting shook the Kurdish community in the French capital and put police on extra alert for the Christmas weekend.

The Paris police chief met Saturday with members of the Kurdish community to try to allay their fears ahead of Saturday's rally.

People wave flags and hold portraits and a long black banner with white lettering on a street in the daytime.
Kurdish activists and anti-racism groups protest in Paris on Saturday while holding Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) flags and pictures of the victims of Friday's shooting. (Lewis Joly/The Associated Press)

France's Interior Ministry reported a 13 per cent rise in race-related crimes or other violations in 2021 over 2019, after an 11 per cent rise from 2018 to 2019. The ministry did not include 2020 in its statistics because of successive pandemic lockdowns that year.

It said a disproportionate number of such crimes target people of African descent, and also cited hundreds of attacks based on religion.

Suspect acted alone, minister says

Friday's attack took place at the cultural centre and a nearby restaurant and hair salon. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners, and had acted alone and was not officially affiliated with any extreme-right or other radical movements.

The suspect had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence.

WATCH | 3 dead in shooting at Kurdish cultural centre in Paris: 

3 dead following shooting in Paris

3 months ago
Duration 1:59
A 69-year-old man is in custody after a gunman opened fire in central Paris, killing three people and wounding at least three others at a Kurdish cultural centre.

Kurdish activists said they had recently been warned by police of threats to Kurdish targets.

In 2013, three women Kurdish activists, including Sakine Cansiz, a founder of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, were found shot dead at a Kurdish centre in Paris.

Turkey's army has been battling against Kurdish militants affiliated with the banned PKK in southeast Turkey as well as in northern Iraq.

Turkey's military also recently launched a series of air and artillery strikes against Syrian Kurdish militant targets in northern Syria.