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Police arrest 30 protesters after Congo riot causes fire

Paris police arrested dozens of protesters on Friday who burnt scooters and bins outside a concert venue hosting a Congolese singer they accuse of giving a voice to the Kinshasa regime.

Police arrest 30 protesters after Congo riot causes fire
Gare de Lyon train station was partially evacuated. Photo: Julien Claus/AFP
The nearby Gare de Lyon train station was partially evacuated during the chaos and police warned Parisians to stay away as a thick, black column of smoke billowed over the city centre.
   
Authorities had banned protests around the concert by singer Fally Ipupa at the AccorHotels Arena in the capital but dozens turned out in anger nevertheless, facing off with the artist's fans and trading insults.
   
“With their music, they (the Congolese government) are bringing an entire people to their side while they slaughter and rape women and children,” opponent Willy Dendebe told AFP at the scene.
   
“I have been here (in France) for 30 years because of them! Thirty years and we let them be here in France as if nothing has happened. So yes, we are angry!”
   
Police said 30 people were arrested and 54 fined for participating in a banned protest, while train traffic was severely disrupted.   
 
On Twitter, Paris police denounced the “unacceptable violence” and posted a video of what it said was “scandalous behaviour” by protesters shown wielding large roadworks barriers to prevent firefighters from getting to the flames.
   
Outside the station, AFP witnessed a dozen firetrucks at work amid the smouldering wrecks of about 30 vehicles, mainly scooters. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner condemned the violence and damage caused in the area, while National Assembly member Eric Ciotti described the events as an “unacceptable urban riot”.
   
Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen called the demonstrators “scum” on Twitter and asked: “What image does our country give to the world?
 
'It's a shame'
 
Congolese expats regularly speak out against artists from home who perform in France or Belgium, accusing them of being close to former DR Congo president Joseph Kabila and his successor Felix Tshisekedi.
   
Tshisekedi took office in January 2019, succeeding President Joseph Kabila, who stepped down after 18 iron-fisted years at the helm. Many see Tshisekedi as an extension of his predecessor.
   
Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Congolese army and other state agents committed rights violations in the conflict-wracked central African country.
   
Just days earlier, Amnesty International delivered a damning assessment of Tshisekedi's government, saying “insecurity and impunity continue to threaten human rights progress” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
   
Lwangi Bienvenu, an Ipupa fan who travelled from Belgium for the concert, observed the chaos from his hotel near the Gare de Lyon.   
 
“It's a shame. He's Congolese, we should all be behind him,” Bienvenu said of the singer. “People will talk about the bad inside us. They put people in danger and they will now surely cancel the concert.”
   
Paris has had its share of violent demonstrations in recent months with protesters ranging from the anti-government “yellow vests” movement to workers striking against pension reform setting fire to public property and smashing store windows during several marches, and clashing with police.

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Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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