2 hours, 51 minutes ago
Tuesday May 30, 2006
Youths clashed with police in a Paris suburb overnight and attacked the home of the local mayor in disturbances one police union said were the worst since a wave of urban riots shook France in November.
French media said some 150 youths armed with baseball bats fought around 250 police for four hours in Montfermeil north of Paris after the arrest of a youth suspected of attacking a bus driver, an incident witnessed by the local mayor Xavier Lemoine.
Youths smashed windows, hurled two petrol bombs at the town hall and stoned the mayor's home, the media reports said.
Seven police officers were slightly hurt in the violence, in which six youths were detained, police said. Three remained in custody.
"Around 100 hooded youths stoned my home shouting 'the mayor is a son of a bitch'," Le Monde newspaper quoted Lemoine as saying. "The clashes took place 50 meters (yards) from my home."
Lemoine, a married reserve naval officer with seven children, said he had been targeted after coming to help a bus driver being assaulted by youths who then recognized him.
The arrest of a suspect in the attack late on Monday triggered the violence, he said.
The mayor, whose home and family have previously been set upon, courted controversy last month when he banned unsupervised under-aged youths from gathering in groups in the town center. The order was later overturned by an administrative court.
Michel Thooris, secretary general of the Action Police CFTC union, said the latest violence was the worst since November.
"Last night we saw the strongest after-shock of the earthquake of November 2005 that hit the suburbs. The situation in the suburbs remains explosive," he said in a statement, calling on Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy to put community officers back on the beat to reduce tensions.
Montfermeil borders Clichy-Sous-Bois (Clichy-Under-Wood, in English), where last year's riots began after two youngsters died while apparently fleeing police. In the three weeks of rioting that followed in poor suburbs around France, some 9,000 vehicles and dozens of public buildings and businesses were torched.
The government invoked emergency powers to quell what was the worst unrest in mainland France in nearly 40 years.
The opposition say the government has failed to alleviate the high unemployment and racial discrimination that provided the backdrop to November's disturbances.