February 29, 2020

FRANCE: Congo Refugees Welcomed In France Rioted And Set Fire To Bins, Parked Motorcycles, Scooters. Then Blocked Firefighters From Tackling The Blaze At Paris's Gare de Lyon Train Station.

BBC News, UK
written by Staff
Friday February 28, 2020

Police evacuated Paris's Gare de Lyon station after protesters started a fire to try to disrupt a concert by a Congolese singer.

Political opponents of the DR Congo government set fire to parked scooters, motorcycles and bins and blocked firefighters from tackling the blaze.

They accuse singer Fally Ipupa of being too close to the Congolese government.

Police had earlier banned protests against the concert, citing a "tense political context".

A large plume of smoke was visible above the station and smoke was also seen inside the Gare de Lyon metro and suburban rail stations.

Victoria Williams from the UK was in the Gare de Lyon at the time.

"There was big thick smoke. People were surging and setting fire to things," she said. "It just seemed to get very ugly, very quickly. Traffic was gridlocked in every direction, it was pandemonium.

"The protesters were throwing anything they could at the police and fire brigade who were just trying to do their job. They were just setting fire to anything they could and fighting with each other."

Police described efforts to prevent firefighters from reaching the scene as "scandalous behaviour".

Before the concert police had warned of significant calls on social media for protesters to "clash with concertgoers".

One protester told Reuters they had been trying to block people from attending. They say Fally Ipupa is too close to President Felix Tshisekedi, who took power a year ago.

Congolese media said members of the Congolese diaspora had come from other European cities, including London, Brussels and Vienna, to try to disrupt the concert.

Concert is historic for Congolese musicians
By Gaius Kowene, BBC News, Kinshasa

For years parts of the Congolese diaspora have condemned musicians they view as too close to the political elite they blame for destroying the country.

As a punishment they have used direct action to effectively ban musicians from performing in Europe and thereby prevent them making money.

For about 10 years, some members of the diaspora would try to beat up any musician - and anyone who was part of the regime - whenever they visited Europe. It happened to some senior officials in the past few years. Some musicians have had concerts targeted.

Fally Ipupa is the first Congolese artist to perform in Europe since then. It is a historic moment for Congolese music. Many people are saying that his concert will pave the way for others to perform. It is a challenge to members of the diaspora and they do not like it.

Fally Ipupa, who reportedly has a large following in France and has collaborated with several French rappers, was forced to cancel a concert in France in 2011, RTL reported.

Police said 30 people had been arrested and 54 people had been fined for participating in a banned protest.
Awful. This is how they treat their host country? (emphasis mine)
The Local, France
written by AFP staff
Friday February 28, 2020

Gare de Lyon train station in Paris was partially evacuated on Friday after a fire broke out nearby during violence on the margins of a banned protest. Train services were severely disrupted, according to SNCF.

Paris police reported a fire Friday near the Gare de Lyon train station, which was partially evacuated after violence broke out on the margins of a banned protest against a Congolese artist giving a concert nearby.

The blaze sent a huge plume of thick black smoke into the sky over central Paris, as police warned the pubic to avoid the area.

"Avoid the area and allow the emergency services to intervene," the police tweeted a little after 6pm on Friday.

The SCNF train service operator said the underground section of the Gare de Lyon was evacuated as a precautionary measure. Train traffic was severely disrupted.

The caused transport disruption on several Metro lines. Parisian rail operator RATP tweeted that the station was shut following the incident.

Passersby posted images of the fires on Twitter.

According to the capital's main daily Le Parisien, the fire erupted during a protest against the Congolese star Fally Ipupa, who was to hold a concert on Friday evening in AccorHotels Arena, in Bercy, east in the capital.

Police said it had intervened to stop protesters who set alight garbage bins and scooters, releasing a thick, black smoke cloud over the city centre.

Police tweeted that "scandalous behaviour from protesters" prevented the Paris fire brigade from accessing the fire, together with a video showing protesters clashing with firefighters.

Outside the station, AFP witnessed a dozen firetrucks at work amid the smouldering wrecks of about 30 vehicles, mainly scooters.

Police had banned any protests around the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, not far from the station, where Congolese artist Fally Ipupa was to give a concert.

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.

A 2017 concert by Ipupa was cancelled by police citing risks for "serious disturbances to the public order".

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