VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France – Rampaging youths rioted for a second night in Paris’ suburbs, firing at officers and ramming burning cars into buildings. At least 77 officers were injured, a senior police union official said Tuesday.
The overnight violence was more intense than during three weeks of rioting in 2005, said the official, Patrice Ribeiro. He said that “genuine urban guerillas with conventional weapons and hunting weapons” were among the rioters.
The riots were triggered by the deaths of two teens killed in a crash with a police patrol car on Sunday in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town in Paris’ northern suburbs.
Residents claimed that officers left the crash scene without helping the teens, whose motorbike collided with the car. Officials cast doubt on the claim, but the internal police oversight agency was investigating.
Rioting first erupted in Villiers-le-Bel on Sunday night. It grew worse and spread Monday night to other towns north of Paris. Rioters hurled stones and petrol bombs at police, authorities said.
The use of firearms added a dangerous new dimension. Firearms are widespread in France, and police generally carry guns. Guns, though, were rarely used in the 2005 riots that spread to poor housing projects nationwide.
Police are facing “a situation that is far worse than that of 2005,” said Ribeiro, national secretary of the Synergie officers union.
“Our colleagues will not allow themselves to be fired upon indefinitely without responding,” he warned on RTL radio. “They will be placed in situations which will become untenable.”