Calm returns to French city after riots

AP News
Posted: Aug 15, 2012 7:01 AM
Calm returns to French city after riots

AMIENS, France (AP) — Tensions appear to have subsided in a northern French city after police fanned out overnight to prevent a repeat of riots that left a pre-school in ashes and revived concerns about security in France's housing projects.

Residents of housing projects in Amiens' northern district said Wednesday that they remain alert for fresh skirmishes, because relations between police and youth in the neighborhood have long been strained.

More than 200 riot police were stationed in the area Tuesday night and Wednesday morning after around 100 young people rampaged through the district Monday night, firing buckshot at police, torching a pre-school and gym and pulling drivers from cars. Some 17 officers were injured.

The administration for the Somme region said no damage or violence were reported Tuesday night, but said it will maintain the heightened police presence Wednesday night and perhaps longer.

A standoff between police and people attending a memorial for a young man who died in a motorcycle accident may have triggered the rioting. Officials underlined that police were not involved in the death.

Salah Boucebsi, who lives in the area hit by Monday's violence, said the lack of prospects for youth might have driven the rioting: "There is no work, 65 percent of them don't have anything."

Mutual suspicion has long marred relations between police and idle youth in France's poor urban and suburban housing projects. Widespread unemployment and societal discrimination against youth with immigrant roots was in part behind nationwide riots in 2005, which erupted after two teenage boys died fleeing police near Paris.

The Amiens rioting — the first such project violence under President Francois Hollande — prompted questions over how the new Socialist government will handle urban violence and whether it will have more success in solving the root of the problem than tough-talking Nicolas Sarkozy's conservatives. There were no arrests in the rioting in Amiens, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Paris.

Amiens residents Claudine and Didier Ella said the only solution is for police to steer clear of their neighborhood, because police presence itself inflames tensions.


Angela Charlton in Paris and Milos Krivokapic in Amiens contributed to this report.