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Lockdown conditions spark more unrest in Paris suburbs as Police accused of heavy-handedness

A car  burns in the street during clashes in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on April 21, 2020
A car burns in the street during clashes in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on April 21, 2020 Copyright GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT/AFP
By Mary Colombel and Anelise Borges
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Residents say authorities are being heavy-handed in their efforts to impose the lockdown.


For a fourth consecutive night, residents clashed with police on Tuesday while cars and rubbish bins were set on fire as residents living under lockdown protested over what they call heavy-handed tactics.

They say authorities have taken advantage of their special mandate to enforce restrictions and police have harassed, humiliated and even abused them.

The sale of fireworks has been temporarily banned after demonstrators launched some at police.

Parts of a school in Genevilliers were torched by rioters but authorities say the situation is under control.

They don't think this will turn into a long series of riots as has previously happened after similar incidents in these neighbourhoods.

"Compared to what, too often, usually happens, and considering the people involved, the acts perpetrated are not too serious", said Stéphane Peu, the government's representative for Saine Saint-Denis.

Nine people were arrested in connection with the school fire and another ten in other suburbs for possession of fireworks or on suspicion of gathering to commit violence. The government said the violence was unacceptable.

"We condemn this violence and we are sending internal security forces to all the districts of the national territory and in particular to the most sensitive districts so that public order is permanently assured ", the government spokesperson, Sibeth Ndiaye, declared after the Council of Ministers on Wednesday.

What caused the increase in violence?

Villeneuve la Garenne, a suburb North-West of Paris has been at the centre of this flare-up. On Saturday a 30-year-old man on a motorbike was injured after he hit the car door of an unmarked police car there and several residents filmed the incident. They say the policeman deliberately injured the man by opening the door in front of his vehicle.

Now in hospital, he has appealed for calm, but residents say this is proof of the harassment they have been subjected to by police since the beginning of the lockdown. They say the police have taken advantage of their special mandate to humiliate them, harass them and sometimes abuse them.

Authorities say an investigation has been launched into Saturday's incident.

Residents in poorer neighbourhoods struggle under lockdown

France has been on lockdown for over a month now and restrictions are taking their toll on poorer neighbourhoods with many residents of the northern suburbs of Paris struggling to make ends meet.

"I work with special educational needs but kids are out of school now and I have to stop until this is over. There is nothing else to do, there's no money coming in. My mum is still getting paid but I get nothing", a resident of Clichy-sous-Bois told Euronews.

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