A demonstration by thousands of supporters of murdered Corsican nationalist Yvan Colonna turned violent on Sunday amid fears the clashes with police could delay talks between the island’s political leaders and the French government.

The clashes involved more than 100 young people — often hooded and wearing gas masks — in front of the prefecture in the city of Ajaccio.

Around 4,000 people took part in the protest, according to local authorities, while organisers put the crowd at 14,000. They included the Mediterranean island’s nationalist and pro-autonomy leaders and came in response to Colonna’s killing in a prison in southern France last month.

The murder has galvanised the nationalist movement and led President Emmanuel Macron’s government to offer talks about giving greater political autonomy to the territory.Many shouted “Killer French State!” during Sunday’s demonstration, reflecting anger over how Colonna had not been protected in prison despite his repeated requests to serve out his jail term on his home island.

Colonna was convicted for assassinating a top French government official in 1998, the most shocking of a series of attacks by pro-independence militant group FLNC.

Two previous demonstrations for Colonna last month ended with violent clashes between police and young people, some of whom set fire to vehicles and damaged buildings.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin committed to starting talks about the future of Corsica from the first week of April, but no date has been set yet.

Colonna, a former goat herder, was announced dead on March 21 after being strangled by an Islamic extremist who accused him of blasphemy in a prison in the town of Arles.

A decision to lower flags for Colonna on the regional Corsican council building and at Ajaccio airport last month caused deep unease on the French mainland.

Macron called the lowering of flags “an error and inappropriate.”