PARIS — A demonstration by hundreds of people protesting the alleged rape of a young black man by police degenerated into violence in a Paris suburb, with small groups setting vehicles on fire and throwing projectiles at officers.
Officers responded with tear gas after the violence broke out Saturday night.
The demonstration began peacefully near the courthouse in the northeast Paris suburb of Bobigny. Protesters called for justice for the 22-year-old man, who was arrested Feb. 2 in Aulnay-Sous-Bois during an ID check by four police officers.
The young man — who is still hospitalized — says he was sodomized with a police baton. The situation has sparked a week of nightly unrest in several small towns with minority populations.
One officer was charged with aggravated rape and three others with aggravated assault. All deny the allegations.
An RTL radio van was among the vehicles set ablaze in the unrest.
Police claimed that the violation of the man with a baton was an accident.
After the violence, at least 37 people were jailed, and a girl had to be rescued from a burning car. Police told AFP that ‘‘several hundred’’ people rampaged though the streets of Bobigny, ‘‘attacking cars, shops, and public property.’’
‘‘The whole area where the demonstration started is now soaking in tear gas,’’ Al Jazeera reported from the city.
The victim, identified as Théo, was in a hospital during the chaos, AFP reported, after an operation for severe injuries. He was covered in blood when he arrived at an emergency room Feb. 2.
Doctors discovered that his primary injury had been caused by a police truncheon used to sodomize the suspect.
While noting that the violent encounter was ‘‘very serious,’’ the investigation by France’s national police determined that the incident was ‘‘not a rape’’ because of the ‘‘unintentional character’’ of the penetration, according to the Huffington Post’s French edition.
Despite those conclusions, Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux announced Sunday that the charges were being brought against the officers, who have been suspended from he force.
On Tuesday, Théo was visited by President François Hollande, who tweeted that ‘‘Théo reacted with dignity and responsibility.’’