(photo credit: REUTERS)
PARIS - Six people were arrested after overnight violence that erupted in a Paris suburb after police checked the identity of a woman wearing a Muslim veil, French authorities said on Saturday.
Public disturbances have shaken depressed, largely immigrant quarters of major French cities at regular intervals for years, often triggered by resentment over spot police checks.
It is illegal in France for women to wear full face veils in public but the law is contested in the mainly Muslim suburbs that ring major cities - where tensions reign in relations between residents and police.
In Trappes, a gritty suburb southwest of Paris, police said a crowd gathered in response to the arrest on Thursday of a man who had assaulted a police officer during an identity check on his wife, who was entirely veiled.
Some 250 people who collected outside the Trappes police station on Friday night threw stones and other projectiles and destroyed property before being repelled by riot police in the early hours of Saturday, a police statement said.
A witness said the crowd called on police to release the husband but were "insulted" by authorities.
"They (the police) didn't want to listen and it got out of control," the man, who gave his name as Sofiane, told iTele. "Trappes is a big family. When you attack us we're going to respond."
Police said order was restored by daybreak in Trappes, an area of grim housing estates, but that reinforcements sent in overnight would remain in coming hours to help ensure calm.
Authorities dealing with immigrant unrest fear a repeat of riots in 2005, France's worst for 40 years, when nationwide violence led to the imposition of a state of emergency.
In Trappes, as cleanup crews cleared away shattered glass from bus shelters, burned trash bins and stones littering the pavement, the chief administrator of the department (county) of Yvelines described the suburb as "calm and serene."
"We will maintain this calm in the coming hours," Prefect Erard Corbin de Mangoux told journalists. "Police will stay put until we believe the threat is over."