The clashes were linked to score-settling by members of the Chechen community in the low-income district of Gresilles. They started on Friday, June 12, following an attack on a 16-year-old member of the Chechen community by a local drug dealer, two days earlier.
Over the weekend, attacks between the two communities continued, and intensified on Monday by Chechens seeking vengeance for the assault on the teenager. Chechens all over France, Germany and Belgium had reportedly travelled to Dijon for the “revenge raids”.
Cars were torched, bins were set on fire, and CCTV cameras were destroyed by hooded men, with some of them shooting in the air. Several people had been injured and a probe has been opened into attempted murder by a criminal gang, Dijon prosecutor Eric Mathais said.
“What happened is unprecedented and unacceptable,” the city’s mayor, Francois Rebsamen, told AFP, with the French government vowing to bring an end to violence in the region.
On Tuesday evening, Junior Interior Security Minister Laurent Nunez arrived in Dijon promising an “extremely strong response”, with more than more than 150 police and paramilitary gendarmes mobilised to end the four days of violent clashes.
According to the French newspaper Le Parisien, the boy’s father appealed for calm, saying that “while we hadn’t asked for anything, several people we don’t know came spontaneously to Dijon. And they overreacted.”
The violent episodes were exploited by the far-right politician Marie Le Pen, who travelled to Dijon, despite being asked by local authorities not to do so. Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Rally party, attacked the immigration policy of French President Emmanuel Macron, in a bid to capitalise on the incident.
“This is a situation of unprecedented gravity. It goes beyond a news story and should be seen as a warning to our nation,” Le Pen said.