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Police attacked outside Paris after Islamic veil arrest

Around 250 protesters clashed with police firing tear gas in the Paris suburb of Trappes on Friday night after police checked the identity of a woman wearing a Muslim veil, French authorities said Saturday. Six people have been arrested.


About 250 people clashed with police firing tear gas in a Paris suburb on Friday, in apparent protest over enforcement of France’s ban on Islamic face veils.

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

Youtube videos showed demonstrators hurling projectiles at a police station in Trappes, a gritty suburb southwest of Paris, while a number of bins were set on fire.

Around a dozen vans carrying riot police were deployed to the area, while a helicopter was dispatched to carry out surveillance of the town.

Order was restored at around 3am when the crowd began to disperse.

Husband of veiled woman ‘tried to strangle police officer’

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.

"Her husband reacted in a hostile fashion, insulting and hitting the policeman,” Jean-Marc Galland, a senior official for Yvelines département (region), where Trappes is located, told Reuters. “The man was placed in custody for that reason."

“On Friday, there were demands for clarification from people in the town who did not understand the arrest,” he added.

Mr Lesclous later told reporters that the man had in fact attempted to strangle one of the police officers during the altercation.

However, The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) published 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.

She said that a police officer grabbed her by the veil, spoke to her aggressively and violently pushed her mother.

“I turned and I saw my husband being held on the ground by two policemen who were putting him in handcuffs,” the statement, by a woman named Hajar, said.

“Once in the police car, they yelled at us like we were animals.”

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 a country with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe - estimated at between five and six million.

Despite the country's large Muslim minority, French officials estimate that only around 2,000 women in the country wear the full-face veil.

Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, urged calm on Saturday, pledging to stand against “all those who attack Muslim buildings or our compatriots of Muslim faith.''

But he also denounced the “unacceptable” events in Trappes, adding that the French state would be “uncompromising in its efforts to tackle both racist acts and violence against the police”.

‘Mass immigration’ to blame, says Le Pen

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front party, was quick to blame Friday’s violence on what she called “the rise of a harmful communitarianism exacerbated by mass immigration” in France.

She claimed that those involved in the riots were attempting to “demonstrate through violence that they have taken control over large parts of the Republic”.

"It is high time to … organise the reconquest by law and order of each square metre of the national territory,” she commented in a statement.

“Governments must stop trembling before thugs and finally stand up to them with total inflexibility and extreme firmness.”

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