PARIS (Dispatches) -- Riot police were deployed in force as youths set cars ablaze in some low-income housing estates in the Paris suburbs overnight, online news reports and postings on Twitter showed on Wednesday, amid tensions heightened by the coronavirus lockdown.
The latest unrest in the banlieues - high-rise, low-income neighborhoods - flared after an 18-year old died last weekend in a motorbike accident in the suburb of Argenteuil, which some in the community blamed on the police.
An investigation into the death of Sabri Choubi was ongoing, said the prosecutor’s department for the district of Pontoise, which handles judicial matters for Argenteuil. It added that initial findings did not show Choubi’s motorcycle had been in a collision with a police car, as some of the victim’s associates had alleged.
Officials at the Paris police department could not be immediately reached for comment on the unrest overnight, but the AnonymeCitoyen twitter feed and residents in the suburb of Argenteuil posted videos and photographs of burnt out cars and riot police in the area.
Residents in the nearby suburb of Bezons also posted videos on Twitter of a large fire, though it was unclear what was burning.
France’s banlieues are frequently flashpoints of anger over social and economic inequality and allegations of heavy-handed policing.
On Sunday, several people were arrested by police in Lyon as Yellow Vest protests returned.
With coronavirus lockdown restrictions being eased, people involved in the movement were able to take to the streets of France once again. President Emmanuel Macron is still facing major backlash from the activists, with many demanding his resignation.
The Yellow Vest movement was initially motivated by rising fuel prices and a high cost of living.
It claims that a disproportionate burden of the government’s tax reforms is falling on the working and middle classes.
One of the protesters held up a sign, reading: "Incompetent, Menteur, Assassin
Macron Degage!” This translates to: "Incompetent, Liar, Assassin Macron get lost!”
‘Macron dégage’ is a popular protest chant to express the Yellow Vest’s anger towards the president.
In one footage, police outfitted with riot gear were seen running through the streets of Lyon, confronting protesters. One man was pinned to the ground and secured with handcuffs before being led away, prompting loud jeering and booing from other protesters and passers-by.
In another clip, a woman was half-dragged, half-carried as she refused to walk willingly with the police while being taken away.