Sporadic clashes broke out Saturday in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, where some 2,000 people had gathered to protest against police brutality and the alleged rape of a 22-year-old man by an officer wielding a truncheon.
Demonstrators held placards reading “police rapes” and “police kills innocents” as they rallied outside the Bobigny courthouse, north-east of the French capital, surrounded by a large contingent of riot police.
While the rally was mostly peaceful, reporters at the scene said clashes broke out after a handful of protesters hurled projectiles at police and several vehicles were set alight, including a van belonging to RTL radio station. Officers responded with tear gas.
Earlier in the day, four people were arrested in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille on the sidelines of another march against police violence, officials said. Similar protests took place in other French cities, including Toulouse and Orléans.
The unrest in Bobigny follows several nights of violence in Paris' northern outskirts, triggered by the brutal arrest last week of a black man identified only as Theo, in the nearby suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
The youth worker suffered such severe injuries to his rectum during the arrest that he needed major emergency surgery and remains in hospital.
One policeman has been placed under investigation for rape, suspected of deliberately shoving a truncheon into the young man’s rectum.
Three other officers have been charged with “deliberate violence in a group”.
On Thursday, police sources said their own investigation into the incident had concluded that the injuries were not inflicted intentionally.
The case has revived past controversies over the relationship between police and immigrant communities in France’s rundown suburbs, where police are regularly accused of discrimination and brutality.
In 2005, the death of two teenagers who were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electricity substation sparked weeks of riots in France. Around 10,000 cars were burned and 6,000 people were arrested.
The latest case comes in the midst of a presidential election campaign and follows the death of 24-year-old Adama Traore in police custody in another Parisian suburb last year.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)