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Police attacked as unrest flares in Paris suburbs


Text by Sam Ball

Latest update : 2013-07-21

Four people have been arrested after vehicles were torched and weapons fired at police during a second night of violence in the Paris suburbs on Saturday. The unrest follows an incident involving France’s controversial ban on Islamic face veils.

Cars were torched and weapons fired at police in a second night of violence in suburbs west of Paris on Saturday.

Despite a heavily reinforced police presence in the area, around 50 people were involved in fresh clashes with security forces, with some firing “mortars and fireworks”, police union chief David Callu told French TV station BFMTV.

He added that the violence had spread from the suburb of Trappes – the scene of Friday night’s clashes – to the neighbouring towns of Élancourt and Guyancourt.

Some 20 cars were torched in the Élancourt area during the course of the night, according to a statement from France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who also said that four arrests had been made.

Meanwhile the AFP news agency reported that a motorist in Trappes had attempted to ram police with a car. No injuries occurred from the incident, but the driver of the vehicle is yet to be found.

A police vehicle parked near the town’s police station was also left partially burned by a Molotov cocktail.

By Sunday morning, calm seemed to have returned to the area, but Interior Minister Valls said extra security measures would remain in place in a bid to prevent further violence breaking out.

The four people arrested will appear in court on Monday.

Arrest over Islamic face veil sparks unrest

On Friday night, around 250 people had clashed with police in Trappes, with video showing assailants hurling projectiles at security forces and a number of bins set ablaze.

Four police officers were injured and six people were detained during the violence, while a 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury from a projectile, police said.

The clashes were apparently sparked by the arrest on Thursday of a man accused of assaulting a police officer after his wife was stopped for wearing a full-face veil – illegal under French law.

Prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told reporters on Saturday that the man had attempted to strangle the police officer during the altercation.

But this version of events has been disputed, with The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) publishing a statement on its website on Saturday, claiming to be from the wife of the arrested man, in which she accused the police of being abusive and using unnecessary force.

The CCIF said the actions of the police were a sign of the “racism and Islamophobia” that are now “clearly institutionalised and legitimised” in France.

France’s so-called 'burqa ban' came into effect in April 2011 and made it illegal to wear any item of clothing that conceals the face while in public, including the burqa and niqab garments sometimes worn by Muslim women.

Those caught violating the law can face an on-the-spot fine of up to 150 euros and/or the possibility of being sent on a citizenship course.

The ban sparked a wave of protests as it made its way into law and remains a highly divisive issue in France, with some claiming the legislation unfairly stigmatises Muslim women and infringes upon their civil liberties.

Date created : 2013-07-21


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