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Trade union protests against huge anti-police graffiti

A huge mural, meant as a sign of protest against police violence and racism, has been unveiled near the capital. One of the national police unions has called for the removal of the mural's stigmatising text and annnounced to hold a sympathy demonstration.

In the city of Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis departement, Mayor Azzédine Taibi has inaugurated a giant mural depicting George Floyd and Adama Traore, killed in France in 2016. The ceremony was also attended by Mr Traore's sister, Assa Traore.

The huge painting on the facade of a building in Colonel Fabien Square was created by members of  "Collectif Art", a group of local artists. However, the writing "Against police violence and racism" at the top of the mural has provoked protest from Alliance Police Nationale 93. They are demanding the removal of these words, arguing that they serve to stigmatise and vilify police. The city's mayor should act in the interests of the French Republic, instead of assisting a provocative anti-police stunt, therefore we condemn his actions, the union wrote on Twitter. They also announced a sympathy demonstration to be held the square on Monday afternoon.

Assa Traore, the head of the so-called Adama Committee,  immediately responded, saying the union's demand was unfair and offensive, because removing her brother's image would equal to calling his existence into question and damaging his memory.

The activist must have misunderstood something, because the union only asked for the removal of the sentence deemed offensive by police; it did not question or object to the existence of the mural. In response to Assa's video message, the union explained on Facebook that they had requested the removal of the sentence because there is no institutional racism or systemic violence in law enforcement.

Joining the debate, Stain mayor Azzedine Taibi also voiced his view, saying neither the mural, nor the writing was defamatory to police, because the mural's sole objective was to raise awareness to some existing violations and abuse. The mayor also invited the union representatives to a meeting to discuss the issue in person.

This is not the only mural in France raising awareness about alleged police brutality. In Nantes, a huge graffiti commemorates the death of Steve Maia Canico, who went missing after a police raid at France'sfree Fete de la Musique techno festival last year. The mural on the banks of the Loire - where Canico's body was discovered more than a month after he disappeared - asks: "What are police doing?"

Steve was partying with his friends on the banks of the Loire when police arrived, following complaints about the noise and the music being too loud. The officers clashed with the festivalgoers in circumstances still unclear. Police said the youngsters had attacked them with stones, to which they responded with tear gas. Some people fell into the water in the calamity, including Steve, whose body was found weeks later along the riverbank, near the scene of the accident.

This year's Fete de la Musique concert started out peacefully in Nantes. A brief commemoration devoted to Steve's memory at the mural ended at 7 pm without major incidents. However, the commemoration has spiralled into a riot with a crowd of around 600 people setting garbage pails ablaze and hurling fireworks at police, who began dispersing the protesters with tear gas.

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