French police station attacked amid tensions over ban on Muslim face veils

FRANCE-POLICE-RIOT-RELIGIONBy Angela Charlton

About 250 people hurling projectiles clashed with police firing tear gas west of Paris, in apparent protest over enforcement of France’s ban on Islamic face veils. Five people were injured and six detained in the violence, authorities said Saturday.

The interior minister urged calm and dialogue, insisting on both the need for public order and respect for France’s Muslims. The incident in the town of Trappes on Friday night reflected sporadic tensions between police upholding France’s strict policies of secularism and those who accuse authorities of discriminating against France’s No. 2 religion.

A few garbage dumpsters in the area were torched and a bus shelter shattered in the Trappes unrest. Spent tear gas capsules lay on the road Saturday near the police station at the centre of the violence.

A 14-year-old boy suffered a serious eye injury in the violence, from a projectile of unknown provenance, Prosecutor Vincent Lesclous told reporters. Four police officers were injured and six people were detained in the violence, said an official with the regional police administration. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to be named due to his department’s rules.

On Saturday night, fearing new violence, riot police deployed around the town, but the atmosphere appeared calm.

The Friday night violence came after a gathering of about 200-250 people to protest the arrest of a man whose wife was ticketed Thursday for wearing a face veil. The husband tried to strangle an officer who was doing the ticketing, the prosecutor said.

France has barred face veils since 2011. Proponents of the ban — which enjoyed wide public support across the political spectrum — argue the veil oppresses women and contradicts France’s principles of secularism, which are enshrined in the constitution. In addition to small fines or citizenship classes for women wearing veils, the law includes a hefty 30,000 euro ($39,370) fine for anyone who forces a woman to wear one.

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