Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Northern Ireland photographer caught up in violent clashes at Euro 2016 between football fans and police in Marseille

England fans heard chanting 'Isis, where are you?'

A Northern Ireland photographer was hit with tear gas during violent clashes between football fans and police in the French port town of Marseille.

The start of the tournament, officially marked by the curtain-raiser between the hosts and Romania in Paris on Friday evening, has instead been overshadowed by images of brawls between rival supporters, violence and confrontations with local police.

The latest clashes came after a night of violence in the southern French city.

One England supporter suffered a head injury in Thursday night's brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair, and according to reports, some England fans were heard chanting: "Isis, where are you?"

As the disorder lurched into another day, bare-chested England fans could be seen dodging the gas deployed by police as an afternoon of drinking and singing turned into an ugly stand-off with police.

Police with helmets, batons and shields grappled troublemakers to the ground amid beer bottles and rubbish strewn across the cobbled streets.

England supporters who had been drinking for most of the day at the Queen Victoria pub in the Old Port district threw bottles at French riot police, who used tear gas to disperse them.

The officers, who wore full riot gear, were seen marching towards hundreds of England fans who ran away down the street.

More: Euro 2016: England fans clash with police in Marseille

The Impartial Reporter's photographer John McVitty found himself in the middle of the trouble on Thursday.

He is in France as part of the Press corps reporting on the tournament.

Mr McVitty said he was enjoying a meal with his wife and friends when the trouble broke out.

He told the Impartial Reporter: "All of a sudden there were up to 15 police cars stopped outside, then the riot police arrived, carrying batons and wearing helmets. Within no time it had moved across the road towards us.

"People were being sick because of the tear gas, there was another man and he had his hands over his eyes. There was a takeaway nearby and all we could do was watch as a man was beaten up,” he said.

As the violence intensified, Mr McVitty, an Fermanagh-based award-winning photographer, was hit by tear gas.

He added: "All you could hear was the banging of the tear gas, the explosions. Then out of nowhere it hit me, it took my breath away.

"It got into my eyes, up my nose. It was really strong, it made me feel very numb and it hurt my eyes. The whole thing was aggressive,” he said.

One England supporter suffered a head injury in Thursday night's brawl after being hit across the face with a wooden chair, and according to reports, some England fans were heard chanting: "Isis, where are you?"

Bare-chested England fans dodged the gas deployed by police as an afternoon of drinking and singing turned ugly.

Police with helmets, batons and shields grappled troublemakers to the ground amid beer bottles and rubbish strewn across the cobbled streets.

Supporters are in Marseille ahead of England's game with Russia on Saturday.

French police dog handlers walk past football fans following clashes with English football fans outside The Queen Victoria pub in Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. PA
French police dog handlers walk past football fans following clashes with English football fans outside The Queen Victoria pub in Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. PA
French police restrain a man following clashes with English football fans outside The Queen Victoria pub in Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. PA
French police dog handlers walk past football fans following clashes with English football fans outside The Queen Victoria pub in Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016. PA
French police officers seperate English and French football fans outside the Metro station in the Old Town area of Marseille ahead of the first game in Euro 2016, following clashes with English football fans near to The Queen Victoria pub. PA

Online Editors