Rioting has once again broken out in a festering region of northern France, pitting local police forces against violent youth.
Motorists in Amiens were dragged from their vehicles and at least 16 police officers were injured in the melee. Rioters also burned a pre-school and public gym at press time, according to an AP report.
Youth unemployment is soaring in northern France and French government recently pledged to send more government funds to Amiens and 15 other regions recognized as “impoverished.”
The identities and cultural make up of the rioters was not cited in the AP report.
The violence and riots hearken back to nationwide riots of 2005 that continued for a month despite the best efforts of police. The riots of 2005 left entire suburban neighborhoods in tatters and burning.
In 2005, the confrontations peaked with 150 local and national riot police squaring off against mostly male youths firing buckshot and fireworks at them in neighborhoods north of Paris. No arrests were made, according to AP.
"The confrontations were very, very violent," Amiens Mayor Gilles Dumailly told the French television network BFM on Wednesday. Dumailly said tensions had been building for months between police and the impoverished residents, whom he described as "people who are in some difficulty."
Trouble has been brewing in the area’s housing projects for decades, highlighted by occasional violence including full blown riots in the heat of August.
Alain Bauer, a professor of criminology, is quoted by AP saying circumstances had only worsened since 2005. He said it was hard to predict what would happen after the Amiens violence, which he described as "a culmination of bitterness and tension."
Violence in Amiens ensued when police and firefighters responding to a car fire in the same neighborhood were assaulted by about 20 male youths who threw bricks and rocks at them.
The fresh riots will test newly elected President Francois Hollande.
"Public security is not just a priority but an obligation," Hollande, a socialist, said Tuesday, speaking at a memorial for two gendarmes killed in June. "We owe it to the population, we owe it to the security forces."
Meanwhile, unemployment is at 12% in northern France, while the national rate stands at 10%. French youth from ages 15-24 are unemployed at 23.3%, according to the national statistics agency.