Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an angry crowd in a town on the outskirts of Paris where clashes erupted on Wednesday night after they questioned a woman wearing a full facial veil, which is banned in France.
A police source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the trouble started when police stopped a 25-year-old woman in the centre of Argenteuil, a suburb north-west of Paris, who was wearing a full-face Muslim veil, or niqab.
A passer-by got involved, calling the check “illegitimate”, and soon a crowd of about 60 people gathered and attacked the police, who called for back-up, said the source. “The police were insulted and beaten,” he said.
A 32-year-old resident who asked not to be named, said police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd in Argenteuil, which has a large Muslim population.
The police source said two men, including a cousin of the young woman, were arrested. Some 40 police officers were called to break up the clashes.
France has outraged many Muslims with its law against full veils, which came into force in April 2011 and bans on covering one’s face in public. Violations are punishable by a fine of up to 150 euros ($190) or mandatory citizenship training. About 300 women were caught breaking the veil law in the first year it was in force, according to the interior ministry.
See also Libération, which has the more detailed French version of the AFP report. This quotes a witness as criticising the police: “They used disproportionate force. Among the crowd were children in pushchairs, who suffered from tear gas.”
Update: The Coordination contre le Racisme et l’Islamophobie has published further details of the incident.