March 27 (UPI) -- Members of the gypsy community in Paris feared race-related retribution Wednesday, following a spread of rumors that repeat false, old tales of child abduction.
Physical attacks have occurred in the French capital after the recent rumors have said gypsies are driving around areas of the city looking to kidnap children. Numerous fights and police detentions and burned vehicles have been reported since Sunday, El Pais reported.
Attackers in the Clichy-sous-bois part of Paris entered a gypsy squatter camp this week and forced them out, Franceinfo reported. In Bobigny Monday, officials said about 50 attackers with knives and batons threatened gypsies and burned vehicles. Similar events have occurred in Aubervilliers, Bondy and Noisy-le-Sec.
The assaults began to diminish after police stepped up patrols in and near gypsy communities, reports said.
The Voice of the Gypsies, a self-described anti-racism group, denounced the false rumors as typical tactics designed to dehumanize. SOS Racisme, a French human rights organization, condemned the attacks as literal man hunts and has asked authorities to step up efforts to stop them.
Tales of child kidnappings by gypsies have long been told in Europe. Some stories used threatening gypsy characters meant to teach obedience, Dutch anthropologist Jean Kommers said after research in the 1990s.