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EUROPE > Minister booed after riots in France

AMIENS, France

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French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (C) is heckled by the crowd in Amiens. AFP photo

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls (C) is heckled by the crowd in Amiens. AFP photo

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls was booed in the northern city of Amiens on Aug. 14, when he promised to restore law and order at the scene of overnight riots in which police were fired at with buckshot and pelted with missiles.

A crowd of about 100 young men met Valls when he arrived in Amiens to discuss two nights of violence apparently sparked by tension over spot police checks on residents. “Calm down! Calm down!” Valls yelled as the crowd jostled him while he entered the town hall surrounded by bodyguards according to Reuters.

Speaking in the area where unemployment stands at 45 percent, Valls said nothing could excuse attacks on police and the torching of public amenities. “I have not come here to challenge a community, young people in general. I have come to say that here... law and justice must prevail,” he said.

President Francois Hollande said the state would “mobilize all its resources to combat this violence”, which has shaken depressed quarters of major French cities at regular intervals over the past decade.

Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the unrest that erupted late Aug. 13 in Amiens’ northern quarter and left 16 police officers injured, a primary school severely damaged by fire and a sports centre destroyed. The violence which casts a shadow over President Francois Hollande’s celebration of 100 days in power, followed smaller-scale clashes 24 hours earlier which were triggered by the arrest of a man for dangerous driving.

“Nothing, bar nothing, can excuse shooting at the police and law enforcement officials or the burning of public equipment,” Agence France-Presse quoted Valls as saying.

Hollande on Aug. 14 made it clear he regarded the unrest in Amiens as primarily a problem of criminality and promised a tough response. “The state will mobilise its entire means to combat these violent acts,” Hollande said. “Security is not only a priority for us, it is an obligation.”

August/16/2012

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