Violence erupted in the northern suburbs of Paris for a second night in a row, with 15 cars set ablaze by residents furious over the death of a young man in police custody, officials said Thursday.
The unrest began on Tuesday night after it emerged that Adama, 24, whose surname was not given, had died shortly after being arrested in the town of Beaumont-sur-Oise. He was taken into custody after interfering in the arrest of his brother in a case of extortion, said a source close to the investigation.
Local prosecutor Yves Jannier said Adama "fainted during the ride" to the police station, and paramedics were called immediately but were unable to revive him. On Tuesday night five members of the paramilitary police were injured in clashes, and nine cars set on fire, while several public buildings were damaged. One person was arrested.
The unrest continued on Wednesday night in a series of villages situated near each other some 30 kilometers north of Paris, where 15 cars were set ablaze and protesters tried to set a mayor's office and a preschool on fire.
"Eight people were arrested. Some for throwing incendiary devices at security forces, others for trying to set a public building on fire," said local government official Jean-Simon Merandat. Youths in the suburb say they are convinced that police are responsible for Adama's death. "He was healthy, a tall, sporty, stocky guy," said Sofiane, 30.
"We know it is going to be covered up. We know if things don't burn nothing will come of it, that is how we feel," said Ornel, 24.
Family members said police hit the man as they detained him for trying to prevent the arrest of his brother on suspicion of violence and extortion.
The prosecutor said an autopsy would be carried out to get to the bottom of the young man's death. In 2005, when two teenagers were electrocuted to death after hiding in an electricity substation while being chased by police, weeks of massive riots erupted in France's suburbs.
The violence was seen as an urban revolt against the system from France's "ghettoes" with their grim high rise buildings, high levels of poverty and unemployment and populations of first and second generation immigrants who feel marginalized by society.
The violence comes as security forces are stretched to their limit, after months on high alert for terrorist attacks, and violent anti-government protests in which they have become a target of hatred.
On Wednesday, French lawmakers voted massively to extend a state of emergency as President Francois Hollande said that a call to boost reserve forces had paved the way towards a "National Guard."
After seven hours of fraught debate into the night, during which the opposition accused the government of being lax on security, the lower house of parliament voted by 489 to 26 to prolong the state of emergency for a further six months.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, a large majority of senators followed suit, voting to extend the state of emergency by 309 to 26.
It is the fourth time the measures have been extended since DAESH struck Paris in November, killing 130 people at restaurants, a concert hall and the national stadium.
The government is scrambling to find new ways to assure a jittery population after its third major attack in 18 months saw a truck driver plough into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, killing 84 people.
The popularity of Hollande's government has also decreased by recent protests over controversial labor reforms. Three months of student- and union-led protests have descended into violent clashes between demonstrators and police. Unions are tapping months of public anger over a labor bill that would make it easier for employers to fire workers and lengthen the working week. On Monday, Prime Minister Manuel Valls was jeered by crowds at a commemoration for victims in Nice.
"This theme could sweep aside all others" heading towards the two-round presidential election in April and May, said political analyst Jerome Fourquet with pollsters Ifop. Fourquet said one natural beneficiary of the focus on security was conservative former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has long cultivated a no-nonsense image in that area, though detractors point out he presided over cuts in police and armed forces numbers as Hollande's predecessor in 2007-2012.Far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen could also stand to gain considerably from the new focus on security, according to political analyst Frederic Dabi, also with pollsters Ifop. An Ifop poll asking which candidate voters absolutely do not want to see in the Elysee Palace presidential residence, published this week but conducted before the Nice attack, shows just how much disaffection there is in France with the entire political class. A staggering 73 percent of voters do not want Hollande re-elected "under any circumstances." Sarkozy is next on 66 percent.
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