Youths set cars and trash bins ablaze and vandalized buildings in suburbs around Paris on Wednesday, venting rage for the fourth straight day over accusations that police officers had beaten and raped a young black man they arrested last week.
The police have used tear gas several times over the four days to disperse angry crowds, and in one instance officers fired live rounds into the air as warning shots, a rare occurrence in France. Five people were convicted on Wednesday evening of “ambushing” police forces. But there have also been peaceful marches in and around Paris to protest the arrest, and the violent unrest has waned.
The unrest has not approached the scale of violence that shook France for weeks in 2005. But even so, it reflects persistent tensions between the police and residents in suburbs where people from immigrant backgrounds are often concentrated and where unemployment is high, especially among young people.
The arrest last Thursday took place in one such suburb, Aulnay-sous-Bois, which is not far from where the 2005 trouble started: Clichy-sous-Bois, where two teenagers died fleeing the police. Youths in the area complain about frequent racial profiling by the police, who in turn cite the difficulties and dangers they face working in hostile neighborhoods.
A similar case in August, when Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man, died of asphyxiation in custody after fleeing a police identification check, set off days of violent clashes in another town north of Paris, Beaumont-sur-Oise.
In a sign that the authorities were eager to defuse this week’s unrest, President François Hollande paid a hospital visit on Tuesday to the 22-year-old man whose arrest ignited the protests. In video filmed by the newspaper Le Parisien, Mr. Hollande said the young man was known by the local authorities for his “exemplary conduct.”
“The judiciary has taken up the matter; it must be trusted,” Mr. Hollande said, adding that it would “ensure that the truth is known.”
The young man and his family have urged protesters to avoid violence.
Police officers arrested him as they were checking the identification of a dozen young men they suspected of dealing drugs; there is security camera footage of part of the encounter. Speaking to the BFM TV news channel in the days that followed, the young man said that the police officers had insulted and hit him and that one of them “took his baton and shoved it into my buttocks.”
The man was hospitalized with serious injuries to his rectum and bruises on his face and skull.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Aurelien Breeden and Benoit Morenne