Several thousand people marched, Sunday, April 3, in Ajaccio, in support of Yvan Colonna, independence activist author of the assassination of the prefect Claude Erignac in 1998 and fatally attacked in the prison where he was serving his sentence.
Clashes, which continued into the evening, broke out on the sidelines of the demonstration, and people dressed in black were seen throwing flaming projectiles towards the police station, according to daily pictures Corse-Morning. These clashes between more than a hundred people, often hooded and equipped with gas masks, and the police, began around 4 p.m. in front of the prefecture, immediately after the arrival of the procession. Far from dispersing, many demonstrators observed, even encouraged the thugs. Others intoned the Corsican anthem, the Dio vi salvi Regina.
Responding to the throwing of Molotov cocktails and agricultural bombs, the police responded with water lances and tear gas canisters. About 30 people were injured, including at least one seriously, according to firefighters. No report was provided by the police who had their own rescue service, according to a fire officer.
Between 3,800 and 14,000 demonstrators
From the same source, several vehicles were set on fire. At the end of the afternoon, the clashes continued near the town hall, some 500 meters from the prefecture, where smoke escaped from a building of which one of the gas pipes was on fire. Clashes were also noted near the CRS barracks in Furiani, near Bastia, already targeted by protesters on Sunday.
The procession at the head of which appeared Stéphane Colonna, Yvan Colonna’s brother, set off at 3 p.m., behind two large banners bearing the now traditional slogan “murderous French state”, in the direction of the prefecture. A slogan taken up in chorus by the parade, and in particular by very young demonstrators, children for some. In the midst of the dozens of banderas, the Corsican flag struck by the Moor’s head, also emerged a Basque flag and a large Breton flag.
This march brought together at least 3,800 people according to a first count by the authorities, 14,000 according to the organizers, a large nationalist collective demanding “justice and truth” for Yvan Colonna. This collective had been formed after the fatal attack, on March 2, of the nationalist militant, who was serving a life sentence for the assassination of the prefect Erignac.
A hundred young people ready for scuffles
Composed of autonomist and separatist political parties, nationalist unions and associations for the defense of prisoners, this movement was already at the origin of the major demonstrations of March 6 and 13 in Corte and Bastia, which ended in violence. Seven thousand people had gathered in Bastia according to the authorities, 15,000 according to the organizers.
Faced with new risks of overflows, an imposing security device had been put in place in Ajaccio, in particular in front of the prefecture and the courthouse, which had been the target of the demonstrators on March 9, with a fire in the hall of steps lost.
In front and on the sides of the march, nearly a hundred young people, hooded and equipped with gas masks or ski masks, were already ready for scuffles, Molotov cocktails in hand for some, while smoke bombs began also to appear. Before the demonstration, several dozen projectiles had been seized by the police, including dozens of petanque balls.
Among the demonstrators was also Gilles Simeoni, autonomist president of the executive council of Corsica. Another figure visible among the procession: Charles Pieri, former presumed leader of the National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC), a movement which recently threatened to resume the armed struggle, or Paul-Félix Benedetti, the leader of the independence party Core in Forehead.
The Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, had undertaken, during his visit to Corsica from March 16 to 18, to open “from the first week of April” a process of negotiations on “all Corsican issues”of which “the institutional evolution towards a status of autonomy remains to be clarified”. If Mr. Simeoni brought forward the day of April 8 for the opening of these discussions, this date has not been confirmed by Beauvau.
In a document they had co-signed on March 18, MM. Darmanin and Simeoni had agreed “that the implementation of this historic process does not” could “to consider oneself only in a peaceful and calm general framework”.