2,500 parties break coronavirus restrictions for participating in illegal French rave

About 2,500 partygoers took part in an illegal New Year’s Eve in northwestern France and quarreled violently with police who failed to stop it and squeaked unrest during the earth’s event could spread the coronavirus, authorities said on Friday.

The detectives had set up the illegal rave in Lieuron, south of Rennes in Brittany, after competitions with the police, said a statement from the local prefecture. Many were still in place on Friday when a sanitation department was thrown around it.

Local gendarmes tried to “prevent this incident but met with fierce hostility from many party guests” who set fire to one of their cars and threw bottles and stones.

Those present had come from all over France and even abroad, it is said.

On Friday night, the sound of techno music could still be heard from the party room, even though the police prevented all newcomers from joining the rave, according to an AFP photographer.

“Police control is going on around the place. Oral warnings are given to anyone who leaves,” police said on social media.

Speaking later on BFM TV, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry Camille Chaize said there had been “great hostility, great violence” against the forces of law and order, without specifying when the police could enter the rave site.

Such mass gatherings are strictly prohibited throughout France to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and a nationwide 20:00 curfew – which was not lifted for New Year – applies across the country.

Reports say that the rave party took place in an empty warehouse belonging to a storage company.

Prosecutors have launched an investigation into the illegal organization of a musical gathering and deliberate violence against people with authority.

Vehicles registered from all over France were still parked at the site on Friday.

‘Small social distancing’

Participants interviewed by AFP said the parties had included party guests from foreign countries, including Spain and the UK.

One participant, who gave his name as Jo from the Alsace region in eastern France and refused to be further identified, said they had all met at a designated place Thursday night in the parking lot of a shopping center.

Then the convoy went towards Lieuron, where the police tried to prevent them from passing, he said.

He acknowledged that “very few had respected social distancing” at the event, which would only end later on Saturday.

French authorities have been worried about mass rave parties throughout the pandemic, but New Year’s Eve was a particular concern.

In the southern city of Marseille, security forces stopped an illegal party that grouped about 300 people, police said. More than 150 people were warned and the three suspected organizers have been arrested.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 132,000 police had been deployed across France for the New Year celebrations to ensure security and that the curfew was respected.

Darmanin said on Twitter on Friday that he was working with local officials in the evening “to restore normalcy” while keeping people safe.