France: Rioting in Amiens leaves police hurt, buildings damaged

People look at a damaged primary school in Amiens, northern France.

Story highlights

  • Interior minister says more police will be deployed Tuesday night to ensure calm
  • 17 police officers were injured in clashes with young people, Manuel Valls says
  • The interior minister says law and order must be restored after "unacceptable" violence
  • The trouble broke out late Monday amid tension with police in the northern city of Amiens
Seventeen police officers were injured in violent clashes with young people in the city of Amiens in northern France overnight, Interior Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday.
In addition, three public buildings were badly damaged during several hours of disorder, CNN affiliate BFM-TV reported.
Amiens Mayor Gilles Demailly told BFM that the damage amounted to millions of euros. People were shocked and upset by the violence, he said.
Images from the north Amiens neighborhood showed burned-out cars and the charred wreckage of a kindergarten and a sports center.
Clashes were reported in the same area Sunday night, BFM reported. The latest violence, involving about 100 young people, broke out late Monday evening and carried into early Tuesday.
The police officers were injured with buckshot, fireworks and projectiles, BFM reported. Police responded with tear gas but made no arrests.
Speaking at a news conference in Amiens, Valls said that the violence shown toward police was "unacceptable" and that law and order must be restored.
More security forces would be deployed Tuesday night to ensure there was no repeat of the trouble, he said.
Valls said those suffering most from the disorder were the residents of the neighborhood affected.
The area had already been designated a "high security zone" because of drug trafficking and other problems, he said, meaning extra resources were to be used there.
A local resident told BFM the community was angered Sunday when police carried out an "aggressive" traffic stop as a funeral was being held for a young man killed in a road accident last week.
Sabrina Hadji, a sister of the victim, said police fired shots as people -- including women, children and the elderly -- were gathered for the ceremony.
The community is tired of being treated without respect and "like animals," she told BFM, and a silent march was organized as an expression of "anger because we are never listened to."
Valls acknowledged there is tension between police and the community after the incident and said an inquiry has been ordered into the police operation.
However, nothing excused violence directed at police and the torching of public buildings, he said.
Valls said he had not come to Amiens to point the finger at anyone, but the rule of law must be followed.
After the initial unrest Sunday, the mayor appealed for "calm, respect and dialogue" in a statement on the official website for Amiens, a city of about 130,000 people.
Demailly urged communication between police and residents, saying it is important they have confidence in each other.
Earlier Tuesday, Valls traveled with President Francois Hollande to the Var area, in southeastern France, to pay tribute to two women police officers who were killed in the line of duty in June, BFM reported.
Hollande addressed the trouble in Amiens, saying that public security is "not just a priority, but an obligation" for authorities.
More must be done to prevent and punish violence, delinquency and criminality, he told reporters.
Hollande, who was sworn in as president three months ago, said the next budget would include additional resources for policing, after years of cutbacks.
France has been shaken by unrest in poorer urban areas on several occasions in recent years, notably in 2005, when the deaths of two young men of North African descent sparked weeks of rioting.