French Youths Fire on Police in Overnight Clashes

Pascal Rossignoi, Reuters, August 14, 2012

Youths fired buckshot at police in clashes in the French city of Amiens overnight on Tuesday, torching cars and a nursery school in a resurgence of urban unrest that President Francois Hollande said he would do everything to confront.

Hollande dispatched his Interior Minister Manuel Valls to the northern city, where two nights of violence were apparently sparked by tension over spot police checks on residents.

Officials said 16 police officers were hurt in the disturbances, some struck by buckshot others hit by a hail of missiles thrown by around 100 youths who gathered in northern districts of Amiens.

One officer was in a serious condition, the city’s Socialist Mayor Gilles Demailly told Reuters.

Speaking during a visit to southeastern France, Hollande said the state would “mobilise all its resources to combat this violence”, which has shaken depressed quarters of major French cities at regular intervals.

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During a night of disturbances, rioters set fire to a number of vehicles, in some cases hauling the drivers out of their cars before burning them, mayor Demailly said.

Gutted buildings, including a nursery school, and burnt out cars were still smouldering early on Tuesday, though the streets were otherwise calm. No-one has been arrested so far.

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Tensions remain high in many French suburbs, where poor job prospects, racial discrimination, a widespread sense of alienation from mainstream society and perceived hostile policing have periodically touched off violence.

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The repeat bouts of violence have provoked agonized debate over the state of the grim housing estates that ring many French cities and the integration of millions of poor whites, blacks and North African immigrants into mainstream society.

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