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Thursday 18 January 2018

'We're at war with the police': Cars burn amid clashes in Paris suburb

The remains of a car burnt by protesters on Monday night in Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris (Alex Turnbull/AP)
The remains of a car burnt by protesters on Monday night in Aulnay-sous-Bois, north of Paris (Alex Turnbull/AP)

French police have detained 26 protesters during an eruption of violence against security forces in a Paris suburb in which numerous vehicles were set on fire, including a police car.

At one point, police encircled by an angry crowd fired warning shots into the air using real bullets, according to French press reports. No injuries were reported.

The pre-dawn violence was a show of outrage in support of a young black man who authorities allege was raped with a police officer's baton last week during a spate of identity checks as part of a police operation targeting drug traffickers.

One officer was charged on Sunday with aggravated rape and three others were charged with aggravated assault.

President Francois Hollande visited the victim on Tuesday at the hospital where he has been admitted, the Elysee Palace said.

Le Parisien newspaper posted on its Twitter page a picture of Mr Hollande shaking hands with the young man lying on his hospital bed.

Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for "the greatest firmness" should any of the four police officers implicated be proven guilty.

"Police by their uniforms represent a state of law," Mr Cazeneuve said, and must be "absolutely exemplary".

Frederic Gabet, a lawyer for the officer charged with rape, said that any injury inflicted was done accidentally.

Firefighters raced to restore order after several shops were reported damaged and rubbish bins set ablaze in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a working class suburb north east of Paris with a large minority population.

French authorities are wary of unrest in poor suburbs, remembering the fiery 2005 riots that spread through France - beginning in nearby Clichy-Sous-Bois and spreading through social housing around the country.

Police Alliance spokesman Frederic Lagache said one police officer narrowly escaped being burned as a protester set his vehicle on fire with a Molotov cocktail.

"The objective is to kill cops and this is unacceptable," Mr Lagache said in an interview with Europe-1.

Local youths claim they are the victims of police who allegedly habitually target them without cause.

"Frankly, it's pathetic. The kid, he plays football, he's serious. He never was in trouble with the police ..." Sofiane Hajjobi, a 21-year-old local resident, said of the victim.

"It's not normal. We're all frustrated. Now we're at war with the police."

The 22-year-old man allegedly assaulted by the officers told his story to the BFM television channel on Monday.

He said the officers hit him and peppered him with racist insults.

At one point, one of the officers took his truncheon and "he drove it into my buttocks", he said.

"These kinds of acts happen every day," said Vin Mazout, 25.

"Everybody, every day, is roughed up (by the police). There are attacks from the police. They insult us. They arrest us all the time. Excuse my words but if my skin was a different colour, I think my life in this neighbourhood would be better."


Press Association

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