Disruption on streets of France as lockdown tensions rise

Spread This News

The Guardian

Unrest sparked by an incident in which a motorcyclist hit a police car in a Paris banlieue has been reported across France, highlighting growing tensions caused by the strict lockdown.

In a fourth night of violence and vandalism, on Tuesday evening a primary school was partially destroyed by fire in a north-west suburb of Paris and police in another district said fireworks had been aimed at them.

In Toulouse several rubbish bins and cars were set alight, and incidents were also reported in Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Versailles and Lyon.

The unrest spread after a trail motorbike ridden at speed on Saturday evening, by a man not wearing a helmet, hit the door of a police car, which was stationary at a red traffic light in the suburb of Villeneuve-la-Garenne. Witnesses said an officer had deliberately opened the door, which the police denied. Investigations have begun.

The unnamed motorcyclist, aged 30, who suffered a broken leg, issued a plea for calm to those on the streets, through his lawyer on Tuesday evening. “I understand that you’ve smashed up cars. I ask you to go home and calm down,” he said in a video filmed in hospital.

Stéphane Peu, an MP for the Seine-Saint-Denis area outside Paris, home to some of France’s most run-down outer-city housing estates, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday: “Compared to what sadly happens far too often and too easily, the number of people involved and the seriousness of the incidents is still quite low.”

The Paris police prefecture has banned the purchase or possession of fireworks in the city and three surrounding departments until 27 April.

In a district of Lyon a group of 30 youths destroyed a bus shelter, burned rubbish bins, smashed the windscreens of several cars and damaged the entrance of the local crêche on Monday evening, reportedly shouting: “That’s for Villeneuve-la-Garenne.”

Alexandre Vincendet, the local mayor, described the youths as “cretins, idiots and imbeciles”, adding: “They wouldn’t even know where to find Villeneuve-la-Garenne on a map … it’s just an excuse to smash things up.”