Hundreds of night owls were booked for violating coronavirus restrictions when an illegal rave in northwest France ended on Saturday after more than two days of partying with clashes with police.
Police had failed to stop the underground event, which drew around 2,500 people to two disused warehouses in Lieuron south of the city of Rennes in Brittany as of Thursday evening.
Such mass gatherings are banned across France to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and a nationwide curfew at 8:00 p.m., which has not been lifted for New Years, is in effect across the country.
During the night, techno music boomed from the warehouses that had been turned into illegal nightclubs for party-goers who had come to the construction site from all over France and even abroad.
The local prefecture announced that on Saturday the music had been switched off and the sound systems dismantled after two nights and that the first night owls had left the premises before daybreak.
At 10.15 a.m. it was under police control, the local prefecture said.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said in a tweet that police booked more than 1,200 people and confiscated a truck, sound equipment and generators from the location of the “illegal rave party”.
The large police presence on site meant that the event was canceled “non-violently”, he added.
Regional Prefect Emmanuel Berthier said 800 people were specifically booked for coronavirus-related crimes such as failing to observe curfew or wearing masks or attending an illegal gathering.
Police fined several hundred others for using narcotics, he told reporters.
– ‘We had to celebrate’ –
Police on the access roads used torches to check anyone who left the premises on foot or in vehicles to check their eyes for signs of drug use, an AFP photographer said.
In a calm atmosphere, police reinforcements continued to arrive on Saturday morning and closed the site, the photographer said.
“It’s been a year since we could do anything,” said 24-year-old partygoer Antoine. The seller was part of a group of five from Brittany who attended the rave.
With drawn faces but still beer in hand, the group said they “came here to celebrate the 31st because it was a huge party”.
“We knew what we were risking … we had to party, everything has been stuck for a year,” said one of the group, a 20-year-old waitress.
Alexis, a 22-year-old baker, said, “At some point you say to yourself, ‘I’m going to force my new year’.”
He added that the rave was even reported in the New York Times and said “it was the biggest party of the year”.
– ‘Lives in danger’ –
French authorities have been concerned about mass rave parties throughout the pandemic, but New Years Eve was a particular concern.
On Thursday evening, the police tried to “prevent the event, but were severely attacked by many party guests” who set one of their cars on fire and threw bottles and stones, the prefecture said on Friday.
First aid workers distributed hand gels and masks at the event to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The Brittany regional health authority noted at the event the “high risk of the spread of Covid-19” and urged attendees to undergo coronavirus tests for seven days and immediately self-isolate.
The prefecture said in a tweet that a testing center had been set up in a high school in Lieuron.
“You have put your life in danger, your health, you must now protect the people around you,” it said.
The party’s organizers are still being sought, local police said, and an investigation has opened.
The French government, at risk of a new wave of Covid-19 infections, announced on Friday that it would extend its curfew by two hours in 15 regions overnight to help fight the virus.
The country recorded around 20,000 new cases and 133 deaths on Friday, bringing the total death toll to nearly 64,800.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)