Hollande pledges tough response to Amiens riot
French firemen inspect damage inside a leisure centre after overnight clashes where gangs of youths set cars and buildings ablaze in Amiens. REUTERS Photo
French President François Hollande yesterday promised a tough response to a riot that devastated a deprived neighborhood in the northern city of Amiens overnight.
“The state will mobilize all its means to combat these violent acts,” Hollande said after a night of unrest that left 16 police officers injured, a primary school badly damaged by fire and a sports center completely destroyed, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Security is not only a priority for us, it is an obligation,” Hollande said, speaking at a memorial in the southeastern village of Pierrefeu-du-Var for two gendarmes killed in June. Hollande’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls was due to visit Amiens later yesterday. The riot, which the local mayor has linked to rising social tension against a backdrop of a deteriorating economy, cast a shadow over Hollande’s celebration of 100 days since he was elected.
No arrests reported
Dozens of young men rioted in a troubled district in Amiens after weeks of tensions, pulling drivers from their cars and stealing the vehicles, The Associated Press reported.
There were no arrests as 150 officers - both local and federal riot police - faced off against about a hundred young men throughout the neighborhood. “The confrontations were very, very violent,” Amiens Mayor Gilles Dumailly told the French television network BFM. Dumailly said tensions had been building for a number of weeks between police and the impoverished residents, whom he described as “people who are in some difficulty.”
Police in Amiens said the riot began around late on Aug. 13, ending early yesterday after federal reinforcements arrived. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the unrest, but there had been smaller confrontations with police over the past week, including one involving a weekend traffic stop that some local residents thought was unnecessarily violent. Local media also said the clashes were apparently sparked by tension over spot police checks on residents in recent days.
Earlier this month, the district in Amiens was among 15 areas declared the most troubled in France, and the government pledged more security and more money. Dumailly said he hoped tensions would improve with a plan to fix up the housing projects and offer more services. In 2005, violence raged unchecked for nearly a month, leaving entire neighborhoods in flames in far-flung suburbs.