French capitals image tarnished by PSG fan violence

14 May 2013 12:38

Paris's image, already tarnished by alarm over recent tourist muggings, has taken a further bashing after violence during a trophy parade to mark Paris Saint-Germain's first French League win in 19 years.

The shock violence occurred late Monday after up to 15,000 PSG fans, who had thronged the esplanade at Trocadero by the iconic Eiffel Tower to mark the victory, turned unruly and attacked tourists and others in the heart of the city.

The unrest came amid increasing reports of thefts against tourists and a strike on April 10 by workers at the Louvre museum who complained that it had been plagued by gangs of increasingly aggressive pickpockets. Police had to patrol the museum.

Smoke bombs were thrown and bars and restaurants were damaged during an hours-long confrontation between an 800-strong police presence and hardline PSG supporters known as "ultras".

In all 32 people suffered injuries and 39 arrests were made following the disturbances. French media reported that a number of tourists were targetted during the unrest.

A PSG players' cruise on the river Seine was cancelled and the team members hastily left the podium at the Place du Trocadero without addressing the crowd. They ended up feting the evening by eating pizza in a hotel, according to French media reports.

"This gives a terrible image of France," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on RTL radio.

"Basically I am furious and disgusted like many people. We must be very firm, very hard with these hooligans."

The melee saw a scooter burnt and shop windows smashed and led to calls from the right-wing UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy for the resignation of Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Fabius brushed aside these suggestions, saying "Manuel Valls is a good interior minister."

Valls meanwhile said a ceremony to hand the trophy over to the champions in front of Paris city hall on Tuesday evening had been cancelled as well as all public events linked to the club.

"All public demonstrations in public places which are linked to Paris Saint-Germain are obviously not possible in the coming hours," he said on Europe 1 radio.

Valls denounced the "intolerable" violence and vowed to make an example of the perpetrators.

Restaurants on the famed Champs Elysees, including the celebrated Fouquet's, had to close early as a result of the violence.

"Several hundred 'ultras' -- some of whom have been banned from stadiums, hooligans, young and drunken -- attacked people and journalists and smashed shop windows and cars for several hours," Valls said.

Paris police commissioner Bernard Boucault said that given the disturbances, PSG would never be granted "a public celebratory parade again".

Paris Saint-Germain, which was bought two years ago by Qatar Sports Investments and earlier this year signed football legend David Beckham, has struggled with fan violence in the past, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.

In stark contrast to the violence in Paris, tens of thousands of Manchester United fans on Monday paid tribute to legendary boss Alex Ferguson who is stepping down after guiding the Red Devils to the English Premier League title for a 13th time.

The event in Manchester passed off without incident.

Recent mass muggings and attacks on Chinese tourists in Paris have sparked alarm and warnings of a decline in the number of free-spending visitors from the Asian giant who swarm to France.

The Chinese embassy in Paris recently reported an increase in the number of complaints regarding muggings and other thefts.

On March 20, a group of 23 Chinese visitors were robbed in a restaurant shortly after they landed in Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport. Their passports, plane tickets and cash were stolen and the group leader sustained an injury to the face.

Source: AFP