Around 250 protesters clashed with police firing tear gas in the Paris suburb of Trappes on Friday night after police checked the identity of a woman wearing a Muslim veil, French authorities said Saturday. Six people have been arrested over enforcement of France’s ban on Islamic face veils.
France24 Four police officers were injured, while a 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury from a projectile, police said. Videos showed demonstrators hurling projectiles at a police station in Trappes, a gritty suburb southwest of Paris, while a number of bins were set on fire. Around a dozen vans carrying riot police were deployed to the area, while a helicopter was dispatched to carry out surveillance of the town.
The clashes were apparently sparked by the arrest on Thursday of a man accused of assaulting a police officer after his wife was stopped for wearing a full-face veil – illegal under French law.
“Her husband reacted in a hostile fashion, insulting and hitting the policeman,” Jean-Marc Galland, a senior official for Yvelines region, where Trappes is located, told Reuters. “The man was placed in custody for that reason.” Mr Lesclous later told reporters that the man had in fact attempted to strangle one of the police officers during the altercation.
However, The Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) published a statement on its website on Saturday, claiming to be from the wife of the arrested man, in which she accused the police of being abusive and using unnecessary force.
She said that a police officer grabbed her by the veil, spoke to her aggressively and violently pushed her mother. “I turned and I saw my husband being held on the ground by two policemen who were putting him in handcuffs,” the statement, by a woman named Hajar, said. “Once in the police car, they yelled at us like we were animals.” (What an insult to animals)
The CCIF said the actions of the police were a sign of the “racism and Islamophobia” that are now “clearly institutionalised and legitimised” in France. (And that’s a ‘bad’ thing because why?)
France’s ‘burqa ban’ came into effect in April 2011 and made it illegal to wear any item of clothing that conceals the face while in public, including the burqa and niqab garments sometimes worn by Muslim women. Those caught violating the law can face an on-the-spot fine of up to 150 euros and/or the possibility of being sent on a citizenship course.
The ban sparked a wave of protests as it made its way into law and remains a highly divisive issue in a country with the largest Muslim population in Western Europe – estimated at between five and six million. Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, denounced the “unacceptable” events in Trappes, adding that the French state would be “uncompromising in its efforts to tackle both racist acts and violence against the police”.
Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front party, was quick to blame Friday’s violence on what she called “the rise of a harmful communitarianism exacerbated by mass immigration” in France. She claimed that those involved in the riots were attempting to “demonstrate through violence that they have taken control over large parts of the Republic”.
“It is high time to … organise the reconquest by law and order of each square metre of the national territory,” she commented in a statement. “Governments must stop trembling before thugs and finally stand up to them with total inflexibility and extreme firmness.”