Nightly violence continues in troubled Paris suburbs

Focus on police identity checks in marginalised areas as government appeals for calm

French president Francois Hollande and labour minister Myriam El Khomri (behind him) on a visit on Tuesday to the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty

French president Francois Hollande and labour minister Myriam El Khomri (behind him) on a visit on Tuesday to the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty

 

The suburbs on the outskirts of Paris continue to be the scene of nightly clashes between police and youths from immigrant background, following the alleged rape by a policeman of a 21-year-old African man identified only as Théo L in Aulnay-sous-Bois on February 2nd.

A second complaint was filed yesterday against the same policeman who is accused of shoving a collapsible baton into Théo L’s rectum.

Twenty-five youths were arrested in Seine-Saint-Denis, where the violence started, and the neighbouring Val-d’Oise department, overnight from Monday to Tuesday. Three vehicles were torched in Seine-Saint-Denis, and another eight in Val-d’Oise.

At Goussainville, some 40 youths threw projectiles at police. At Chanteloup-les Vignes, about 50 policemen were targeted with Molotov cocktails, and the door of the police station was rammed in with a car.

At Nanterre, police who went to the scene of two burning vehicles were accosted by some 30 hooded youths.

Appeals for calm

The violence continues despite government appeals for calm. When prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve met with five anti-racism groups on Monday, he promised more widespread use of “pedestrian cameras” worn by police to record interaction with the inhabitants of troubled districts.

The anti-racism groups demand that every person stopped for an identity check be provided with a record, including the reason for the check. President Francois Hollande promised to establish such a system, but it was never introduced.

The former justice minister Jacques Toubon, now an ombudsman with the title “defender of rights”, told France Inter radio that the wounds suffered by Théo L “show what kind of conflicts are sometimes engendered by identity checks”.

A study by Mr Toubon’s office found that 80 per cent of men between the ages of 18 and 25 who self-identified as black or Arab have been subjected to police checks in the past five years.

Mr Hollande went to the suburb of Aubervilliers, near Aulnay-sous-Bois, on Tuesday to deliver a speech about his youth jobs programme. “One cannot accept, because of a tragedy that I myself denounced, that there be violence,” he said. “Police – rapists, murderers!” a woman shouted.

‘Redbeard’

Mohamed K (22), a deliveryman and a friend of Théo L, told L’Obs magazine he was badly beaten by three policemen on January 26th, a week before Théo L was injured.

After the beating, his eyes were so swollen that he couldn’t see, Mohamed K said. A photograph published by L’Obs shows an African with badly swollen eyes.

Mohamed K said his assailant is known in the neighbourhood as “Redbeard” and that “he’s the same one who penetrated Théo with his baton . . . The cops handcuffed me, knocked me to the floor, crushed my head, hit my eyes with their knees. I saw my blood on the ground. I was trying to crawl.”

The Jean-Verdier hospital in Bondy ordered five days’ rest for Mohamed K. One of the three policemen was given three days off work for a twisted little finger.

The interior minister, Bruno Le Roux, asked the Inspectorate General of the National Police to investigate Mohamed K’s accusations.