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Police near a burning van in the Les Grésilles district of Dijon on June 15, 2020
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‘They insulted us’ Dijon, France sees ongoing unrest due to fighting between immigrants from Chechnya and North Africa

Source: Meduza
Police near a burning van in the Les Grésilles district of Dijon on June 15, 2020
Police near a burning van in the Les Grésilles district of Dijon on June 15, 2020
Philippe Desmazes / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

French law enforcement decided to send reinforcements into the city Dijon in eastern France due to ongoing unrest that arose against the backdrop of a confrontation between two minority groups — immigrants from Russia’s Chechnya and from North Africa.

According to the television channel France Info, the unrest began during the evening of June 12, when dozens of immigrants from Chechnya rallied in downtown Dijon. People armed with baseball bats, metal rods, knives, screwdrivers, and hammers, attacked a popular local hookah bar called “Le Black Pearl.” Police used tear gas to try and disperse the crowd, but no one was arrested. Ten people were injured, including several individuals who sustained serious injuries.

Journalists report that members of the Chechen diaspora came to Dijon in order to confront a group of North African drug dealers from the city’s Les Grésilles district, after they assaulted a 16-year-old Chechen boy in the city on June 10. During the beating, they reportedly told him “We are leaving you alive to pass on to your [people] that this will [happen] with everyone.” The teenager in question is said to be in critical condition. 

According to the French authorities, the Chechen diaspora began calling for revenge for the injured teenager on social networks. One Chechen claimed that immigrants from Chechnya living in France, Belgium, and Germany, had arrived in the city.

In Dijon on the night of June 14, a meeting took place between representatives of the two conflicting groups. Someone opened fire on a car during the meeting. That same night, one man suffered a gunshot wound in the Les Grésilles neighborhood.

The next night, June 15, dozens of Chechens armed with metal rods were spotted in Les Grésilles. France Info journalists noted that they were polite when dealing with the press. One of them explained that the drug dealers were their main target. “They insulted us, they beat one of ours, so we are here to beat them,” he said, specifying that the Chechens were not planning to kill anyone.

Another meeting between the members of the Chechen diaspora and immigrants from North Africa was supposed to take place in the early hours June 15, but the North Africans didn’t show up. The Chechens did not attack anyone this time. Instead, they patrolled the streets in dozens of cars, in an alleged attempt to ensure the safety of local Chechens.

Footage from the third night of unrest in Dijon

During the evening on June 15, unrest broke out in the Les Grésilles district once again. People fired guns into the air and at CCTV cameras, and set fire to cars and trash cans. Riot police moved in and dispersed the crowd.

That same evening, 18 cars were set on fire in the neighboring city of Chenôve. In this instance, however, Chechen immigrants were not involved in the incident — according to law enforcement agencies, local residents staged the riots. In response, the prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation for attempted murder and the incitement of violence.

Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart