30 arrests in Paris following Congo concert protest

Paris police have evacuated Gare de Lyon station after political opponents of the Democratic Republic of Congo government started fires to try and disrupt a nearby concert by Congolese singer, Fally Ipupa.

Dozens of the protestors were arrested on Friday evening after they set fire to scooters and bins outside the AccorHotels Arena concert venue near Gare de Lyon and blocked firefighters from tackling the blaze.

They accuse Fally Ipupa, a renowned Congolese singer with a big following in France, of giving a voice to the government in Kinshasa.

French authorities had earlier banned protests against the concert, citing “a tense political context”, but dozens turned out in anger nonetheless, facing off with the artist's fans and trading insults.

"Congolese musicians are leaders of opinion, they should be the conscience of the people and of leaders. Ipupa is supporting those who are in the process of destroying the country to the detriment of its people,” opponent Anastasie told RFI at the scene.

"I have been here in France for 30 years because of these leaders. Thirty years and we let them come here to France as if nothing has happened. So yes, we are angry," another opponent Willy Dendebe told AFP.

Police said 30 people were arrested and 54 fined for participating in a banned protest, while train traffic was severely disrupted. 

On Twitter, Paris police denounced the "scandalous violence" of protesters. The video shows them wielding large roadworks barriers to prevent firefighters from getting to the flames.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner condemned the violence and damage caused in the area, while National Assembly member Eric Ciotti described the events as an "unacceptable urban riot".

Far-right National Rally leader Marine Le Pen called the demonstrators "scum" on Twitter and asked: "What image does our country give to the world?

A chance "to rewrite history".

Congolese expats regularly speak out against DRC artists who perform in Europe, accusing them of being close to former DR Congo president Joseph Kabila and his successor Felix Tshisekedi, who took power in January 2019.

Last month, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the Congolese army and other state agents committed rights violations in the central African country.

Just days earlier, Amnesty International delivered a damning assessment of Tshisekedi's government, saying "insecurity and impunity continue to threaten human rights progress" in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Fally Ipupa has a big following in France and was recently a guest on RFI. Despite working with several French rappers, he has not managed to perform in France for over a decade.

He was forced to cancel a concert in France in 2011 under pressure from the diaspora.

This time it went ahead, making him the first Congolese artist to perform in Europe for a decade.

Ipupa took to Twitter to thank the 20,000 fans who attended his concert and posted footage on his Instagram account.

"Thank you to all the 20,000 people who made last night an unforgettable evening. Your determination, your courage but above all your love made it possible to rewrite history," he wrote. "My most sincere regrets to all those of you that were unable to access the arena! We Will do it again!! I love you guys so much."