Clashes broke out for a second day in Paris on Saturday between police and members of the Kurdish community angry at the killing on Friday of three members of their community.
Cars were overturned, at least one vehicle was burned and small fires set alight near Republic Square, the traditional venue for demonstrations in the city where Kurds earlier held a peaceful protest.
Clashes broke out as some demonstrators left the square, throwing projectiles at police who responded with tear gas. Skirmishes continued for around two hours before the protesters dispersed.
A gunman carried out the killings at a Kurdish cultural center and nearby cafe on Friday in a busy part of Paris’ 10th district, stunning a community preparing to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the unresolved murder of three activists.
The suspected attacker was wounded and is in custody. He is a 69-year-old Parisian who was charged last year with attacking migrants and was released earlier this month. He is facing potential charges of murder and attempted murder with a racist motive, the Paris prosecutor’s office said Saturday.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the suspect was clearly targeting foreigners, and had acted alone and was not officially affiliated with any extreme-right or other radical movements. The suspect had past convictions for illegal arms possession and armed violence.
Following questioning of the suspect, investigators had added a suspected racist motive to initial accusations of murder and violence with weapons, the prosecutor’s office said on Saturday.
After an angry crowd clashed with police on Friday afternoon, the Kurdish democratic council in France (CDK-F) organized a gathering on Saturday at Republic Square.
Hundreds of Kurdish protesters, joined by politicians including the mayor of Paris’ 10th district, waved flags and listened to tributes to the victims.
“We are not being protected at all. In 10 years, six Kurdish activists have been killed in the heart of Paris in broad daylight,” Berivan Firat, a spokesperson for the CDK-F, told BFM TV at the demonstration.
She said the event turned violent after some protesters were provoked by people in a passing vehicle who displayed a Turkish flag and made a nationalistic gesture.
Friday’s murders came ahead of the anniversary of the killings of three Kurdish women in Paris in January 2013.
An investigation was dropped after the main suspect died shortly before coming to trial, before being re-opened in 2019.
France’s Interior Ministry reported a 13 percent rise in race-related crimes or other violations in 2021 over 2019, after an 11 percent rise from 2018 to 2019. The ministry did not include 2020 in its statistics because of successive pandemic lockdowns that year. It said a disproportionate number of such crimes target people of African descent, and also cited hundreds of attacks based on religion.
“The Kurdish community is afraid. It was already traumatized by the triple murder (in 2013). It needs answers, support and consideration,” David Andic, a lawyer representing the CDK-F, told reporters on Friday.
Kurdish representatives, who met with Paris’ police chief on Saturday, reiterated their call for Friday’s shooting to be considered a terror attack.
The questioning of the suspect was continuing, the prosecutor’s office added.
(With Reuters and AP)