Violence flares in tense Paris suburbs as heavy-handed lockdown stirs ‘explosive cocktail’

From the land of the Yellow Vests. Sometimes the French know how to get things done.

By Benjamin Dodman

France 24

A rubbish bin burns in the street during clashes in Villeneuve-la-Garenne, in the northern suburbs of Paris, early on April 21, 2020.

Three nights of unrest in the French capital’s northern suburbs have stoked fears of a major flare-up in deprived neighbourhoods where weeks of lockdown have exacerbated the simmering tensions between restless youths and police.

Six weeks into France’s nationwide lockdown, Zouhair Ech-Chetouani is as nervous as the youths he looks after in the shabby housing blocks of northern Asnières. In more than 20 years of social work, the community leader says the restive northern suburbs of Paris have seldom felt quite so tense.

According to Ech-Chetouani, strict confinement measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, coupled with tough policing to enforce those rules, have mixed up an “explosive cocktail” in areas already blighted by poverty, unemployment and now a worsening health crisis.


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