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Posts tagged ‘Protests in France’

Paris protesters decry police abuse; some clash with police

February 18, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Paris police sprayed tear gas at bottle-throwing demonstrators on the margins of a rally Saturday meant to support a young black man who was allegedly raped with a police baton and other victims of police abuse.

Two police officers were injured and 13 people were arrested in the clashes, which involved about 150 of the thousands of mostly peaceful anti-racism demonstrators. The skirmishes marked the latest in a string of protests around the alleged rape that have degenerated into violence.

Police had installed a security perimeter around Paris’ Place de la Republique for the rally. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, urged the government to ban the protest out of respect for police.

Demonstrators carried banners reading “Justice for Theo,” the name of the 22-year-old alleged rape victim. The protesters argue that Theo is just one example of many young minority men unfairly targeted by French police in ID checks and sometimes abused.

One officer has been charged with rape in the case, and three others with aggravated assault. All deny intentional wrongdoing. Former French national soccer star Lillian Thuram was among the Paris marchers Saturday calling for justice.

“Living in the public space is not the same, depending on the color of your skin,” he said. “We’re in 2017. This is a real shame.” Theo, whose last name has not been released, was hospitalized for two weeks after the reported attack in his hometown of Aulnay-sous-Bois northeast of Paris..

After an apparent video of the attack circulated online, angry youth torched cars and clashed with police for several days in suburbs around Paris. The violence was reminiscent of riots in 2005 that exposed France’s long-running problems between youths in public housing projects with high immigrant populations and police.

Demonstrator Hamid Djudi, 57, expressed frustration Saturday that successive French governments have failed to prevent abuse and discrimination. “In the 1980s, we were protesting racism … I was 20 years old in the ’80s. I used to face (police) controls four times a day,” he said. “History repeats itself. My own children are facing the same troubles.”

“One of them is an engineer, the other is a doctor, and my daughter is at the Institute of Political Studies. And they are controlled by police every time they go out of our building,” he lamented. “This is not normal. That’s why I decided to come here. To protest for my children.”

Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.

17 charged after violent protest rages in Paris suburb

February 08, 2017

AULNAY-SOUS-BOIS, France (AP) — Protesters burned cars and menaced security forces in an eruption of violence in a Paris suburb early Tuesday over a young black man allegedly being raped by a police baton, and authorities said 17 people were being charged.

Six adults would be tried in immediate hearings in a suburb court Wednesday under charges of “ambush” or “acts of violence and gathering with weapons,” while 11 minors were to be presented to a juvenile court judge for alleged ambush, the prosecutor’s office in Bobigny said Tuesday night.

Police initially detained 26 people during the pre-dawn outburst in which a police car and other vehicles were set afire in Aulnay-sous-Bois, a working class suburb northeast of Paris. At one point, police encircled by an angry crowd fired warning shots into the air using real bullets, according to French press reports. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters raced to restore order after several shops were reported damaged and garbage bins burned in Aulnay-sous-Bois, which has a large minority population. Authorities are wary of unrest in France’s poor towns, remembering the fiery 2005 riots that spread through France — beginning in the Paris suburb of Clichy-Sous-Bois and hopscotching through social housing around the country.

The latest violence was a show of outrage in support of a young black man who authorities allege was sodomized with a police officer’s baton last week during a spate of identity checks as part of a police operation targeting drug traffickers. One officer was charged Sunday with aggravated rape and three others were charged with aggravated assault.

President Francois Hollande visited the alleged victim, identified only by his first name, Theo, on Tuesday afternoon at the suburban hospital where he has been treated since the incident, the Elysee Palace said.

In a video posted on Twitter page of the newspaper Le Parisien, Hollande stood talking to Theo, who was lying on a hospital bed. The president told him that “the legal process is underway” and that “we must trust it to get to the bottom of this.”

Then, speaking to the camera, Hollande said, “We are also thinking about Theo who has always been known for his exemplary behavior in a family … with good relations with police.” With Hollande standing beside him, Theo called for young people in Aulnay-sous-Bois to be calm.

“My town, you know that I love it very much. I would like to find it just as I left it. So guys, stop making war, be united, trust in the justice system and justice will be done,” Theo said. “Pray for me so I can return as soon as possible among you and be together. Thank you, thank you, Mister President.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for “the greatest firmness” should any of the four police officers implicated be proven guilty. Frederic Gabet, a lawyer for the officer charged with rape, has said that any injury inflicted was done accidentally.

After the early morning violence, Police Alliance spokesman Frederic Lagache said one officer narrowly escaped being burned when a protester set his vehicle on fire with a Molotov cocktail. “The objective is to kill cops and this is unacceptable,” Lagache said in an interview with Europe-1.

Local youths claim police habitually target them without cause. “Frankly, it’s pathetic. The kid (Theo), he plays football, he’s serious. He never was in trouble with the police,” said Sofiane Hajjobi, a 21-year-old resident. “It’s not normal. We’re all frustrated. Now we’re at war with the police.”

Theo, 22, told his story to the BFM television channel Monday. He said officers beat him and peppered him with racist insults. At one point, one of the officers took his truncheon and “he drove it into my buttocks,” he said.

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. But, in this case, the victim and his family gave interviews to the media, and the French president publicly used the young man’s first name in his presence and in front of a camera.

Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley, Sylvie Corbet and Philippe Sotto in Paris contributed to this report.

French towns protest plan to take in migrants from Calais

October 08, 2016

PIERREFEU, France (AP) — French villagers are protesting the arrival of migrants who are being dispersed around the country as the government shuts down the slum-like camp in Calais that has become a flashpoint in Europe’s migrant crisis.

Competing rallies were held Saturday in Pierrefeu in Provence in southeast France, under watch of gendarmes. The mayor led several hundred people protesting a government proposal to house a few dozen migrants in an abandoned wing of a psychiatric hospital while they apply for asylum or study other options.

Left-wing activists answered with their own, smaller rally to welcome the migrants — but then were drowned out by yet another gathering organized by the anti-immigrant, far-right National Front party.

The National Front is making the Calais relocation plan a nationwide cause, urging mayors to resist and organizing protests across the country. Resistance to immigration is central to the campaign platform of National Front leader Marine Le Pen in her bid for the French presidency next year.

President Francois Hollande has pledged to close the Calais camp before winter and relocate as many as 9,000 migrants living there to 164 sites around France while their cases are examined. The Calais camp has been an embarrassment to the French government and symbol of Europe’s failure to find solutions to the migrant crisis.

Authorities are already busing migrants out of Calais in small numbers ahead of what aid groups expect to be a larger operation starting in the next couple of weeks. Pierrefeu residents hostile to the migrants say they fear the newcomers will threaten their security and worry about potential tensions with psychiatric patients. The government is considering sending up to 60 migrants to this town of 6,000 for up to five months.

“Even if we can understand the dismantling of Calais … our small towns are not the solution for this dismantling. We are too small to host so many people,” said Mayor Patrick Martinelli. At the National Front rally, residents wore French flags on their shoulders. Some shouted “France is for French people!” and said they feared terrorists would be among the migrants.

National Front Senator David Rachline came to Pierrefeu to push Le Pen’s presidential bid. “French people will have to choose at the presidential election: Do they want — yes or no — to continue with those crazy immigration policies?” he declared.

Pro-migrant locals called for solidarity. “I am ashamed because we repress the poorest. They need us, the people who are coming from abroad and are dying in the seas. We have everything here, we are a rich country, we have a rich village,” said Pierrefeu resident Laure Paul.

National Front politicians were also at a protest Saturday in Forges-les-Bains, south of Paris. About 200 people marched through town to protest the arrival of about 40 Afghan migrants relocated from Calais to an unused building.

In Forges-les-Bains, villagers largely said they were not hostile to the migrants themselves — they just don’t want them in their towns. Posters at the march read “Not against migrants, but against the state” and “Plan imposed from above = mounting anger.”

Angela Charlton in Paris and Christophe Ena in Forges-les-Bains contributed.

French police protest the violence they say is aimed at them

May 18, 2016

PARIS (AP) — French police took to the streets in about 60 cities Wednesday to denounce the hatred and violence they say has been repeatedly directed at them during protests against the government’s labor reforms. In some places they faced counter-protesters, who said the police themselves were instigating the violence.

In Paris, a few hundred police officers gathered on the Republic Plaza during their lunch break. Several hundred counter-demonstrators came by, chanting slogans like “Everybody hates the police!” and pushing up against the officers until eventually the police deployed pepper spray to disperse the crowd.

Some counter-protesters set fire to a police car in a street nearby. Vanina Giudicelli, one of the counter-protesters, told The Associated Press that the police gathering was “a real provocation.” “Since the first demonstration on March 9, we notice that they generate the violence. We have been sprayed by gas, hit with batons, arrested,” she said.

Jean-Claude Delage, secretary general of the Alliance police union, denounced an “escalation of violence” in the labor protests and said some people were harassing police officers with projectiles and Molotov cocktails and even hitting them with iron bars.

“Troublemakers provoke clashes in the middle of peaceful protests. So it’s very complicated for police forces to isolate and arrest them,” Delage explained on BFM television. French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that over 350 police officers have been injured in clashes and 60 people have been convicted amid the labor reform protests.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says he is offering his “full support” to police following the weekly Cabinet Council meeting. He said the police have instructions to take “firm action” against those who take part in violent clashes.

“Anti-cop hatred comes from a small portion of the population … but these 10 percent are very violent,” Jean-Marc Falcone, general director of the police, told Europe 1 radio.

Chris Den Hond contributed to the story.

Tear gas, clashes mar French protests over labor law reforms

April 09, 2016

PARIS (AP) — French police clashed with protesters rejecting labor law changes in several cities Saturday, sending clouds of tear gas across the Place de la Nation in Paris and torrents of water against demonstrators in Nantes.

Several rallies were marred by violence amid nationwide protests against the labor reforms being championed by the country’s Socialist government. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Paris to protest the changes to the rules governing layoffs and France’s 35-hour workweek. Officials hope the changes will inject some flexibility into the country’s stagnant labor market but many workers fear it will do little more than weaken the nation’s generous social protections.

Local media counted at least 200 demonstrations across France, including a march in Paris kicking off from Place de la Republique, home to a round-the-clock Occupy Wall Street-style sit-in in reaction to the reforms.

Paris police said three officers were injured in the clashes. French television broadcast scenes from the western cities of Nantes, where authorities deployed a water cannon to disperse protesters, and Rennes, where police faced off against gas mask-wearing, shield-wielding rioters clad all in black, firing flash-bangs and sound grenades.

Continued unrest over the labor plans is piling the pressure on France’s ruling Socialists, who have already been forced to retreat over security plans to pull the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism.

Thousands march in Paris rain to protest state of emergency

January 30, 2016

PARIS (AP) — Thousands of people marched in the Paris rain on Saturday to denounce plans to renew France’s state of emergency and revoke the French citizenship of dual nationals convicted of terrorism.

Human rights groups, politicians and unions joined the march in the French capital, and in other demonstrations around France. The protests came just days before the Cabinet plans to review a measure on Wednesday to prolong the state of emergency, first imposed after the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.

The state of emergency gives more power to police and administrative authorities, allowing for searches without warrants, house arrests and other measures. “My France of liberties, where are you?” read one banner.

The parliament is expected to approve the prolongation of the exceptional measures in voting later this month. The current state of emergency expires Feb. 26. Jean-Baptiste Eyrault, of the Right to Housing movement, said: “Democracy is moving backwards … at the expense of judges and the rule of law, freedom to demonstrate and (freedom) of expression.”

Last week, a French high court upheld the measure, saying the danger “has not disappeared.” Opponents of another plan to revoke citizenship for dual nationals convicted of terrorism claim the move would feed racism, creating a two-tier system of citizens. Many dual nationals are Muslims, and some feel they are blamed for attacks by Islamist extremists.

Green party lawmaker Noel Mamere, taking part in the march, said the state of emergency lays the foundations for “a society under surveillance.” Christiane Taubira resigned suddenly last week as France’s justice minister over her opposition to the plan, and as it became evident her views were on a collision course with those of President Francois Hollande.

Car-making deals, protests greet Iranian president in Paris

January 28, 2016

PARIS (AP) — France’s government welcomed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday with promises of a new beginning in an old relationship, starting with investments to boost Iran’s flagging economy that has been crippled by decades of sanctions.

“It’s a new chapter of our relationship,” French president Francois Hollande said in a joint news conference following a two-hour meeting with Rouhani at the Elysee palace. “I want that relationship to be useful, useful to both countries, useful to the (Middle East) region affected by wars, crises and tragedies.”

Hollande added that he raised the issue of human rights and freedom during the meeting. France sees the visit also as an opportunity to draw Iran into a role of crisis-solving, notably in Syria’s civil war where Iran actively supports the government of President Bashar Assad, which Paris firmly opposes.

“We must fight terrorism” in Syria and Iraq, Rouhani said during the joint conference. “We must help the Syrian people so that the Syrian people can build a sustainable future for the country,” he said.

Rouhani decried the sanctions his country was previously under, saying history has shown that they “never worked.” He said the nuclear deal that led to the lifting of sanctions this month can serve as a model for solutions in other crises, notably in the Middle East.

A total of 20 agreements were signed after Rouhani’s meeting with Hollande. Iran Air signed a deal to buy 118 aircraft from Airbus, valued at 22.8 billion euros ($25 billion). PSA Peugeot Citroen also announced a joint venture with Iran Khodro to produce latest-generation vehicles in Tehran by the end of 2017.

French and Iranian companies also signed agreements in the sectors of air and maritime transport, airports, health and agriculture. Oil and gas company Total inked a deal with the National Iranian Oil Company to purchase crude oil.

The French presidency said the total amount of the deals signed during Rouhani’s visit, including Airbus, could reach up to 30 billion euros ($32.8 billion). The historic outreach trip did face some strains, however, in a reminder of the complexities confronting all sides despite the French welcome mat.

France has asked its European Union partners to consider new sanctions on Iran for its recent ballistic missile tests, officials told The Associated Press. That highlights continued suspicions between Iran and the West.

Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, with headquarters outside Paris, held a demonstration, and 61 lawmakers signed an open letter to Hollande condemning Iran’s human rights record, with executions on the rise, and what it called its “strategy of chaos” in the Middle East.

An activist hung from a fake noose off a Paris bridge next to a huge banner reading “Welcome Rouhani, Executioner of Freedom.” At the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), Rouhani took digs at the West, notably regarding the migrant crisis. He pointed out that Europe is complaining about the number of refugees arriving on its territory while Iran is hosting 3 million Afghans “without complaining.”

Rouhani, who arrived in France from Italy, was originally scheduled to visit Paris in November, but the trip was called off after Islamic extremists carried out attacks around Paris that killed 130 people.

Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris, Danica Kirka in London, Raf Casert in Brussels and George Jahn in Vienna contributed to this report.

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