Several nights of clashes broke out after four police officers purportedly forced a 22-year-old man, identified only as Théo, to the ground, beat him up, and then one of the officers allegedly raped him with a baton during an identity check last week in the northern Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois.
The riots later spread to at least five nearby towns with the protesters demanding justice for the police officers involved in the incident.
Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux confirmed late on Sunday that all four officers had been suspended pending an inquiry.
"I call to calm my city because I love it very much," Théo said from his hospital bed. "Violence is not the way to support me. Justice will do its job."
Meanwhile, the far-right National Front leader and presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen was quick to jump to the defense of France's security forces.
The February 2 incident raised fears of a repetition of the violent riot that broke out in November 2005.
In an interview with Sputnik France, Luc Poignant, a spokesman for Unité SGP Police – FO trade union, said that most of the young inhabitants of the poor suburbs had jobs and held no grudge against the police.
Many see President Hollande’s decision to visit Théo in hospital as an attempt to end the riots, but Luc Poignant said that Hollande had failed to do the same for two police officers hospitalized with severe burns after being pelted with 'Molotov cocktails' in a Paris suburb in October 2016.
Gérard Mauger, a sociologist, said he didn’t expect the current riots to degenerate into the kind of mass-scale violence that erupted in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities in November 2005 when many cars and public buildings were torched by rioters with Arab or otherwise Muslim background.
He said that, unlike the events of 12 years ago, the media was no longer stoking up public emotions, one of the four police officers involved in the February 2 incident was already charged with rape, while three others were charged with aggravated assault, and that the victim himself had called for calm.
“All this will prevent any further escalation of the conflict. Thank God the police didn’t say they had done nothing wrong, admitted their guilt and the prosecutors accepted that,” Gérard Mauger said.
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