Less than 7 weeks before the French presidential election, the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis has erupted in riots and chaos, with school children and youths leading the mob.
Police arrested more than 50 individuals for rioting, throwing rocks at police cars, setting smoke bombs off at the school, and lighting cars on fire.
“These are very serious acts by vandals that we need to punish severely,” Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told reporters at a meeting of cabinet ministers.
Paris has seen increased violence over protests for a man who claims he was raped with a baton by police at a separate incident. Police maintain that it was an accident.
Several students set off smoke bombs in the school, and as the others were being evacuated, 50-100 children started throwing stones at the approaching police cars.
“It’s unacceptable that vandals threatened the future of our country and put teachers and other pupils in danger,” Le Pen said, criticizing the Socialist government for failing to react.
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Police estimate between 80 and 100 students took to the streets, hurling stones at officers as well as throwing molotov cocktails and launching fireworks in acts of destruction.
At 11am, several individuals were able to enter the Suger college, north of central Paris, and start three fires in the building.
A witness added: “They were throwing Molotov cocktails and firing mortar fireworks into the premises.”
But while police attended the scene, in a bid to quell the violent acts, they faced further aggression.
One officer said: “At about 11 am smoke was thrown into the compound.
“The air became unbreathable and the headmaster decided to evacuate and close the facility, which had already been disturbed the day before by incidents.”
The arrests follow a series of violent protests following the alleged rape of a young black man by French police with a truncheon.
The man, identified only as Theo L, remains in hospital with injuries after his arrest and alleged abuse on February 2.
Police looking to stem the tide of chaos outside the Saint Denis Suger High School claim they heard “slogans like ‘revenge for Theo'”.