Officers in Paris fired tear gas after thousands gathered for a banned protest against police brutality.
The demonstration was held outside the Tribunal de Paris, the capital’s main courthouse, amid growing global outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Protesters were also paying homage to Adama Traore, 24, a black man who died in the custody of French police in July 2016.
Mr Traore’s family claim he died of asphyxiation and his last words were the same as those of George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.”
Police banned the protest hours before it was due to start, citing coronavirus restrictions forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.
But thousands wearing masks and carrying Black Lives Matter placards defied the ban, with protesters singing the French national anthem through the glass doors of the courthouse to officers on the other side.
When cries of “Justice for Adama” started to die down on Tuesday evening and the demonstration came to an end, some were seen pelting riot police with debris and setting fire to nearby buildings.
Similar tensions broke out in Marseille amid fury that the Traore case is still unresolved four years after this death. Investigations are still ongoing, with medical reports proving inconclusive.
Mr Traore’s death is being likened to Mr Floyd’s as a symbol of police brutality.
Dominique Sopo of the French anti-racism charity SOS Racisme said: “When you refuse to treat the problem of racism… it leads to what we see in the United States. The case of George Floyd echoes what we fear in France.”
Mr Floyd, 46, was unarmed when a white police officer called Derek Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck in Minneapolis despite complaints he could not breathe.
He died shortly after, resulting in Chauvin facing a count of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Protests over his death quickly spread across the US and beyond, with many turning violent and a number of people shot, despite his family’s pleas for demonstrations to remain peaceful.