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Rioting breaks out on French housing estates as lockdown tensions mount

Journalist Taha Bouhafs – who caught the action on video – was one of those arrested in the northern Paris. Riots were triggered after an Arab Muslim youth was hit by an unmarked police car

Rioting broke out on French housing estates as tensions escalated over the coronavirus lockdown.

Tear gas and baton charges were first used by police in the northern Paris suburb of Villeneuve-la-Garenne in the early hours of Monday.

As the violence spread to nearby towns, squads of Republican Security Company (CRS) police were drafted in to deal with gangs of youths.

Videos of the trouble posted by the French journalist Taha Bouhafs, who is from an Algerian background, includes one of him being manhandled by police – leading to allegations of racism.

Mr Bouhaf’s earlier images show tear gas canisters being fired by the police, who were hit my numerous fireworks.

The early morning violence followed prosecutors opening an enquiry after a 30-year-old motorcyclist was critically injured following a collision with an unmarked police car in Villeneuve-la-Garenne.

Friends of the victim, who have not been named, claimed the incident on Saturday night was an example of police heavy-handedness against ethnic minority communities during the lockdown.

“The very badly injured man comes from an Arab Muslim background,’ said a source close to the case.

“He is critical in hospital, and people in the area have reacted very badly to what has happened.”

A local police spokesman said: “Police and their reinforcements have been the target of rioters, who have thrown stones and fireworks.

“The violence started in Villeneuve-la-Garenne and has spread to other towns and estates nearby.”

Last week prosecutors in Béziers, in the south of France, announced that officers were facing criminal charges after a father-of-three died while under arrest for breaching the Coronavirus lockdown.

Three officers were videoed dragging Mohamed Gabsi, 33, along the ground during a curfew.

They are suspected of “intentional violence by a public official leading to manslaughter” and “non assistance of a person in danger”.

The offences come with a potential combined prison sentence of 15 years plus, said local prosecutors.

The case is particularly sensitive because Mr Gabsi was a Muslim, and Béziers is run by a far-Right mayor who is supported by the National Rally party, which used to be called the National Front.

Mr Gabsi had suffered a heart attack by the time he arrived at a local police station, and witnesses saw two of the officers sitting on top of him in their patrol car.

Mr Gabsi’s suspicious death follows numerous complaints about police racism as forces across France enforce one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe.