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Police and residents clash over heavy-handed lockdown enforcement in Paris suburbs

A French police vehicle drives past a pile of burning trash in front of the "Les Jardins de la Noue" apartment building in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on April 20, 2020.
A French police vehicle drives past a pile of burning trash in front of the "Les Jardins de la Noue" apartment building in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on April 20, 2020. AFP - GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT

Police fought running battles in at least five suburbs of Paris overnight with residents who accused officers of using heavy-handed tactics to enforce France's strict coronavirus lockdown.

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Residents burnt cars and shot fireworks at police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas in the northern suburbs of Villeneuve-la-Garenne and Aulnay-sous-Bois, witnesses and police said on Monday.

The violence began on Saturday when a motorcyclist was injured during a police check in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, prompting a crowd to gather.

A police statement said the group targeted officers with "projectiles" in a near two-hour standoff.

The motorcyclist crashed into the open door of an unmarked police car and required surgery for a broken leg.

Residents allege the door was opened deliberately as the rider was approaching it at high speed so that he would smash into it.

The 30-year-old will lodge a complaint against the officers, his family and a lawyer told AFP, while prosecutors have opened an investigation.

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By Monday morning, calm had returned to Villeneuve-la-Garenne after a second night of standoffs with police, according to an AFP journalist.

There were also standoffs in nearby Aulnay-sous-Bois, where police claimed they were "ambushed" by residents in a district of dense, high-rise social housing of mainly immigrant occupants.

Police said they arrested four people after being targeted by residents using fireworks as projectiles.

The troubles spread to at least three other suburbs in the same department as Villeneuve-la-Garenne, with projectiles thrown at police and rubbish bins set alight, officials said.

Across Ile-de-France – the region that includes the capital and its surrounding suburbs – roughly 15 cars and some 50 bins were burnt and seven people were arrested.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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