Paris riots (again)

Youths fought running battles with hundreds of police in a north Paris suburb in the early hours of yesterday, burning cars and attacking the home of the conservative mayor in the worst disturbances since last year's urban riots.

The violence erupted as the interior minister and presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, prepared to present his proposed law on delinquency to parliament next month to try to curb criminality among France's disillusioned youth.

Mr Sarkozy wants to give more power to mayors to deal with troublesome teenagers. But yesterday morning on the rundown Bosquets estate in Montfermeil, Seine Saint Denis, where street signs had been ripped up and decaying tower blocks bore hundreds of graffiti tags saying "fuck the police", many said Mr Sarkozy's proposals had already backfired.

The violence began on Monday afternoon after the arrest of a teenager suspected of attacking a bus driver. The attack was witnessed by the local mayor, Xavier Lemoine, from Mr Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, who gave evidence to police. Mr Lemoine, started a row last month when he banned teenagers aged 15 to 18 from going out in groups of more than three, and ordered under-16s to be accompanied by an adult in public. A court overturned the ban after protests from civil liberties groups.

On Monday night, youths opposed to the mayor began burning cars on the Bosquets estate. At least 150, many hooded and with baseball bats, fought riot police for more than four hours, petrol-bombing buildings and smashing the windows of the town hall before gathering outside the mayor's house, which they pelted with bricks.

"Around 100 hooded youths stoned my home shouting 'the mayor is a son of a bitch'," Mr Lemoine, a former naval officer with seven children, told Le Monde. His home and family have been targeted recently and he was under police guard.

Seven police officers were injured and six arrests were made. The violence also spread to neighbouring estates in Clichy-sous-Bois, where last November's riots began. During those riots, more than 9,000 vehicles and dozens of public buildings and businesses in France's poor suburbs were torched. The government invoked emergency powers to quell what was the worst unrest in the country for 40 years.

Michel Thooris, secretary general of the Action Police CFTC union, said the violence was "the strongest aftershock of the earthquake of November 2005".

Source: Guardian (English)

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