Rioting over Traveller killed by police sparks debate on security

 

THE FUNERAL took place amid heavy security yesterday of a Traveller who was shot dead by French police in a quiet town in the Loire valley last week.

Riots broke out in Saint-Aignan, a town of just 3,400 people, last Sunday, after Luigi Duquenet (22) was shot and killed as he drove through a police checkpoint. Members of the Traveller community reacted to his death by attacking the local police station, hacking down trees and pillaging a bakery.

The victim died on Friday evening after a police officer opened fire on the car. The authorities said it failed to stop at a checkpoint and continued for 500m with a gendarme on the bonnet. At a second checkpoint, the car accelerated towards two police officers, one of whom opened fire.

The car then continued on to nearby Saint-Romain-sur-Cher, where the driver’s body was later recovered, the local prosecutor said.

Friends of Mr Duquenet dispute the official version of events and some 50 Travellers, armed with hatchets and iron bars, attacked the local police station and burned cars. Acquaintances of the dead man said the police in such a small commune would have recognised Mr Duquenet and asked why they could not have waited to arrest him at his caravan.

Saint-Aignan’s mayor, Jean-Michel Billon, attributed the violent reaction to a “settling of scores between travelling people and the gendarmerie”.

During a visit to the town on Monday, interior minister Brice Hortefeux said: “We cannot tolerate the intolerable, so I have asked that heavy and massive means be deployed.”

There was a large police presence for the funeral, but no violence was reported as of last night.

The violence in Saint-Aignan and rioting in Grenoble have pushed security up the political agenda. Socialist Party spokesman Benoît Hamon said the incidents showed a government “totally overwhelmed in the struggle against insecurity”.

Responding to a call for a conference on the issue, Frédéric Lefebvre, a spokesman for the ruling UMP party, said: “Whenever there are serious security problems, want to hold a conference.”