In the face of the escalating crisis that hundreds of arrests and massive police deployments have failed to quell, French President Emmanuel Macron has held off on declaring a state of emergency, an option that was used under similar circumstances in 2005.
Buildings and vehicles have been torched and stores looted, and the violence has plunged President Emmanuel Macron into the gravest crisis of his leadership since the Yellow Vest protests that started in 2018. Unrest has flared nationwide, including in cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse,
France said on Friday the coming hours would be decisive after three nights of riots since a police officer shot dead a teenager at a traffic stop in a working class suburb of Paris. The violence has plunged President Emmanuel Macron into the gravest crisis of his leadership since the Yellow Vest
Firefighters in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, where the shooting occurred Tuesday, extinguished the blazes set by protesters that left scorched remains of cars strewn across the streets. In the neighboring suburb Colombes, protesters overturned garbage bins and used them for makeshift barricades.
France protests: Thousands arrested and over 45,000 police officers deployed. Everything you need to know
Instead, his government has ratcheted up its law enforcement response, with mass deployment of police officers.
Here are the top developments of the day:
Mourners gather at grand mosque
Rituals to bid farewell to the teen, who was killed in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, began on Saturday with a viewing of the open coffin by family and friends.
Several hundred people lined up to enter the grand mosque in Nanterre.
Some of the mourners, their arms crossed, said “God is Greatest” in Arabic, as they spanned the boulevard in prayer.
Salsabil, a young woman of Arab descent, told Reuters that she had come to express support for Nahel’s family. “I think it’s important we all stand together,” she said.
Marie, 60, said she had lived in Nanterre for 50 years and there had always been problems with the police. “This absolutely needs to stop. The government is completely disconnected from our reality,” she said.
Macron cancels state visit to Germany
French President Emmanuel Macron postponed a state visit to Germany that was due to begin on Sunday due to the unrest, both countries said.
Macron spoke on the phone on Saturday with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and briefed him on the situation, a spokesperson for the German president said. “President Macron has asked that the planned state visit to Germany be postponed,” the spokesperson said.
This would have been the first state visit by a French president to Germany in 23 years.
Given the importance of the French-German relationship on the European political scene, the scrapping of the official trip was a clear sign of the gravity of France’s unrest.
This is the second time in months that French unrest hurt Macron diplomatically.
King Charles III canceled his first foreign visit as U.K. monarch, initially planned for France, because of protests over Macron’s pension reform plans.
45,000 police officers deployed
The government deployed 45,000 police and several armoured vehicles overnight to tackle the worst crisis of President Macron’s leadership since the “Yellow Vest” protests which brought France to a standstill in late 2018.
Provisional ministry numbers released early Saturday said 1,350 vehicles and 234 buildings had been torched overnight, and there had been 2,560 incidents of fire set in public spaces. The ministry also said 79 police or gendarmes had been injured.
1,300 protesters arrested
France’s interior ministry said that 1,311 people had been arrested, compared with 875 the previous night, in violence which it said on Twitter was “lower in intensity”.
Protests continue in Paris suburb after teen shooting
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said the average age of those arrested was 17.
What sparked the riots?
Nahel, a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent, was shot during a traffic stop on Tuesday in the French capital’s Nanterre suburb.
The shooting of the teenager, caught on video, has reignited longstanding complaints by poor and racially mixed urban communities of police violence and racism. Macron had denied there is systemic racism inside French law enforcement agencies.
“If you have the wrong skin colour, the police are much more dangerous to you,” said a young man, who also declined to be named, adding that he was a friend of Nahel’s.
The policeman whom prosecutors say acknowledged firing a lethal shot at Nahel is in preventive custody under formal investigation for voluntary homicide, equivalent to being charged under Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions.
The teen’s mother, Mounia, said the 38-year-old officer who was detained and charged with voluntary manslaughter, “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”.
Buildings and vehicles have been torched and stores looted in the unrest, which has spread nationwide, including to cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.
More than 200 police officers have been injured, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said, adding that the average age of those arrested was 17. Looters have ransacked dozens of shops and torched some 2,000 vehicles since the riots started.
Friday night’s arrests included 80 people in Marseille, which is home to many people of North African descent.
Explosions and looting
Social media images showed an explosion rocking the old port area of the southern city, but authorities said they did not believe there were any casualties.
Rioters in France’s second-largest city had looted a gun store and stole hunting rifles, but no ammunition, police said.
Mayor Benoit Payan called on the government to send extra troops to tackle “pillaging and violence” in Marseille, where three police officers were slightly wounded early on Saturday.
In Lyon, France’s third-largest city, police deployed armoured personnel carriers and a helicopter, while in Paris, they cleared protesters from the Place de la Concorde.
Darmanin had asked local authorities to halt buses and trams, while Macron urged parents to keep children at home.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch French president says violence ‘unjustifiable’