France vows crackdown after New Year attack on police
The French government vowed a crackdown on urban violence Tuesday after shocking video footage emerged of a policewoman being beaten on New Year’s Eve.
She was one of two officers attacked by a crowd of youths after police were called to a party in the Paris suburb of Champigny-sur-Marne, in an assault President Emmanuel Macron called “a cowardly and criminal lynching”. A third officer was beaten up Monday while trying to inspect a stolen scooter inside a sprawling housing estate in the suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
More than a thousand cars were burned across France on New Year’s Eve, a ritual for youths living in deprived high-rise suburbs.
“This violent society cannot continue in the years to come. It must be stopped,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Europe 1 radio on Tuesday, calling the attacks against police “unacceptable”.
Officers had been called to clear a crowd of three or four hundred people attempting to see in 2018 at a warehouse party in Champigny-sur-Marne. They fired tear gas after “a group of particularly violent individuals laid into the police,” local security chief Jean-Yves Oses said, with revellers beating and kicking two officers. Videos of the policewoman writhing on the floor as she is kicked by the crowd, as well as revellers flipping over a car, have gone viral on social media.
Two people were detained on suspicion of vandalism, but no one has been arrested for attacking the police. Macron vowed that the culprits would be “found and punished”.
A total of 1,031 cars were torched across France as the country welcomed the New Year — up from 935 a year ago — while arrests rose from 456 to 510, according to the interior ministry.
Collomb said reforms were needed to improve lives in “pauperised, ghettoised” French suburbs, which have long suffered a reputation for violence and poverty. “These are neighbourhoods that must change,” Collomb said, ahead of new pilot schemes in local policing set to begin next month following a large-scale consultation with security forces.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen urged reforms to laws governing police officers’ right to self-defence, blasting “insecurity that sometimes comes close to that of urban guerillas” in tough neighbourhoods.
Macron set out a raft of policies to fight poverty in downtrodden districts in November after critics labelled him a “president of the rich” due to his generous tax cuts for high earners. He reached out to the poor again in his New Year’s message, promising a “grand social project” in 2018.
French police have long suffered testy relations with youths in poor immigrant-heavy suburbs, not least since the nationwide riots in 2005 sparked by the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding from officers. The assault of a young man by police in Aulnay-sous-Bois — which led to officers being charged, including for rape after a truncheon was shoved up the youth’s anus — sparked fresh unrest last year.
An attack on two officers who were badly burned when Molotov cocktails were thrown into their car in the southern Paris suburbs in October 2016 prompted weeks of protests by police demanding safer working conditions.
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