Liverpool

Rubber bullets used on Everton 'rioters' in Lille, say police

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Media captionFootage from Lille shows Everton fans throwing missiles at police

Rubber bullets were used against Everton fans who clashed with police before the club's match in Lille, authorities in France have confirmed.

A spokesman said police "had missiles thrown at them" after arresting a fan in the city's main square for selling drugs at about 14:20 CET (13:20 BST).

Officers acted in self-defence, using a stun grenade and rubber bullets to "drive back the rioters", he added.

But supporters said French police were "heavy-handed" and used tear gas.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson described the police's actions as "totally disproportionate" to what was happening and said he would write to his Lille counterpart to ask for an explanation.

A spokesman for Everton said the situation in the square "quickly escalated into unwelcome and unpleasant scenes, [but] equally quickly returned back to normal".

He said the club was working with "all authorities to find out what happened and why" and asked fans to report what they saw through a feedback form on the club's website.

'Stay away' message

Up to 10,000 Everton fans travelled to Lille for Thursday's Europa League match, which ended in a goalless draw.

Many congregated in Grand Place before the game, hanging flags from the surrounding buildings. Blue flares were also set off in the square.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Everton fans set off flares in the square
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A French police spokesman said intervention teams were used to deal with "rioters"

Trouble started when French police chased someone into the square, said a spokesman for Merseyside Police, which had liaison officers in Lille.

During the disturbance, bottles were thrown at police and tear gas was deployed on fans.

A statement issued by the French embassy confirmed riot police fired two rubber bullets and a stun grenade "in self-defence".

Mr Anderson said he understood the police had "a duty to protect and make sure the residents of Lille are safe and there is no unruly behaviour that causes alarm or distress, but I can't see that in the pictures I've seen.

"It seems to me if tear gas or pepper spray has been fired into groups that include children then that is a totally disproportionate response."

He said it was "important we know what went on so it can be addressed" in order to make sure Lille fans feel "welcome" when they come to Merseyside for the return fixture in November.

The individual arrested over the drugs issue was remanded in custody at the local police station. No further arrests were made.

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