France: Rioting in Amiens Leaves Police Hurt, Buildings Damaged
Community fed up with being treated ‘like animals’, says local resident
CNN Wire Staff
August 14, 2012PARIS (CNN) -- Seventeen police officers were injured in violent clashes with young people in the city of Amiens in northern France overnight, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday.
In addition, three public buildings were badly damaged during several hours of disorder, CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported.
Amiens Mayor Gilles Demailly told BFM that the damage amounted to millions of euros. People were shocked and upset by the outbreak of violence, he said.
Images from the neighborhood showed burned-out cars and the charred wreckage of a kindergarten and a sports center.
Clashes were reported in the same area Sunday night, BFM reported. The latest violence, involving about 100 young people, broke out late Monday evening and carried into the early hours of Tuesday.
The police officers were injured after coming under fire from buckshot, fireworks and projectiles, BFM reported. Police responded with tear gas but made no arrests.
Speaking at a news conference in Amiens, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said the violence shown toward the police was "unacceptable" and that law and order must be restored.
Valls said those suffering most from the disorder were the residents of the neighborhood affected.
The area had already been designated a "high security zone" because of drug trafficking and other problems there, he said, meaning extra resources were to be spent there.
A local resident told BFM the community had been angered Sunday when police carried out an "aggressive" traffic stop as a funeral was being held for a young man killed in a road accident last week.
Sabrina Hadji, a sister of the victim, said the police had fired shots as people were gathered for the ceremony, including women, children and the elderly.
The community is fed up of being treated without respect and "like animals," she told BFM, and a silent march was organized as an expression of "anger because we are never listened to."
Valls acknowledged there is tension between police and the community following the incident and said an inquiry has been ordered into the police operation.
However, nothing excused violence directed at police and the torching of public buildings, he said.
Valls said he had not come to Amiens to point the finger at anyone, but the rule of law must be followed.
A statement from the mayor posted on the official website for Amiens, a city of about 130,000 people, after the initial unrest Sunday appealed for "calm, respect and dialogue."
Demailly urged communication between the police and residents, saying it is important they have confidence in each other.
Earlier Tuesday, Valls traveled with President Francois Hollande to the Var area, in southeastern France, to pay tribute to two women police officers who were killed in the line of duty in June, BFM reported.
Hollande addressed the trouble in Amiens, saying that public security is "not just a priority but an obligation" for the authorities.
More must be done to prevent and punish violence, delinquency and criminality, he told reporters.
France has been shaken by unrest in poorer urban areas on several occasion in recent years, notably in 2005, when the deaths of two young men of North African descent sparked weeks of rioting.
CNN's Alexander Felton and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.