At least 30 vehicles were destroyed in arson attacks on Thursday night, according to police sources cited by French daily Le Figaro.
“We are already at a certain number of burnt vehicles,” said the office of Josiane Chevalier, the prefect of the Bas-Rhin region, adding that several arrests had been made throughout the night.
Smoldering cars, as well as those fully engulfed in flames, were seen in videos posted to social media, in some cases setting off loud blasts as the vehicles’ fuel ignited.
— Enzo Alias (@Enzo_Alias) December 31, 2020
— Maamar Benchaa (@MaamarBenchaa) December 31, 2020
Warning earlier on Thursday that there would be no “concession” to vandals, Chevalier said the city “cannot afford to have the same record as last year” and that the authorities had done everything in their power to curtail the car burnings.
In 2019, some 220 cars in the city were incinerated in a relentless string of vandalism on New Year’s Eve.
In addition to a nationwide 8pm curfew and a number of street closures in Strasbourg, fireworks had been banned for the entire month of December.
Local police also set up “mobile forces” in “strategic locations” across the city, according to Annie Bregal, Bas-Rhin’s director of public security.
A total of 100,000 officers and gendarmes were stationed across France to enforce the restrictions, and retail sales of fuel were temporarily banned.
The measures did little to stop the rampage on Thursday night, however, with throngs of vandals hitting the streets despite the curfew and sizable law enforcement presence, which included a police helicopter, filmed shining a searchlight on the city below.
The ban on fireworks also appears to have been largely ignored, with bangs being heard throughout the night.
👮♀️ Nouvel An 👮
Comme prévu, les forces de l’ordre sont très présentes sur l’Eurométropole de #Strasbourg et les signalements d’incidents sont déjà nombreux sur les réseaux sociaux.
Comme on le craignait, la nuit risque d’être longue et sous tension pour les forces de l’ordre. pic.twitter.com/EGdV3UdoPP
— Info Trafic Alsace (@ITA6768) December 31, 2020
Strasbourg is not the only city to have taken part in the annual New Year’s arson-fest, with a record 1,457 cars having been burned last year in France as a whole, according to media reports.
The destruction has become something of a yearly rite in French suburbs since 2005, when riots gripped Paris and other towns for three weeks, sending countless buildings and cars up in smoke and resulting in at least three deaths.
Header: Vincent Kessler, Reuters – Members of France’s Research and Intervention Brigade (BRI) patrol at the French-German border (ARCHIVE)