Police clash with residents in locked-down Paris suburbs

·2 min read

Paris (AFP) - 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.

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 a police car and required surgery for a broken leg.

Residents allege the door was opened deliberately so that the rider 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.

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.

- 'Confinement and tensions' -

After the motorcyclist was injured on Saturday, rights group SOS Racisme called for full details of the incident to be divulged and urged police to use restraint "in this time of confinement and tensions".

Earlier this month, prosecutors opened an investigation into the death in detention of a 33-year-old man arrested for allegedly violating the home confinement measures imposed by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Police said the man resisted arrest. According to his sister, he had suffered from schizophrenia.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Sunday police had carried out 13.5 million checks since the lockdown started on March 17.

More than 800,000 people were written up for violations of the order, which allows people to leave their homes only for essential purposes.

Several complaints were lodged against French police during recent months of pension reform protests and "yellow vest" anti-government rallies.

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