The riots in France following the death of a teenager in a police shooting continued for the third night, with multiple fires in various locations, looted police cars and store break-ins. Rioters also burned down cars, raided banks, and erected barricades in other parts of the country. The largest library in Marseilles, Alcazar, also fell victim to the violence and was set on fire.
Around 40,000 police officers were stationed across the country. More than two hundred police personnel were injured and 875 people were arrested overnight. Police fired tear gas grenades during clashes with youths in the tourist hotspot of Le Vieux Port in Marseille.
The government asked all local authorities to halt public transport early on Friday evening in a desperate attempt to restore order after rioters torched buildings and cars in the third night of rage sparked by the killing of Algerian youth Nahel.
Violence has flared in Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille as well as parts of Paris in the country. Rioters clashed with police, torched vehicles, looted stores and burnt them down, videos of which have gone viral. In just three days of violence, cities and towns in France resemble a war-torn region, with burnt vehicles and looted stores.
Texts that read ‘Vengeance for Nahel’ were pasted across buildings in Nanterre, a town on the western outskirts of Paris where the minor was killed. Paris vowed to examine “all options” to restore order on Friday after the massive chaos.
President Emmanuel Macrons informed that more police will be deployed across France. He urged parents to keep young rioters off the streets. “It’s the responsibility of parents to keep them at home. It’s not the state’s job to act in their place,” he notified.
The president also criticized social media and video games after a crisis meeting with his ministers. The French president said social media was playing a considerable role in fomenting the unrest, adding that he wants platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok to delete sensitive content.
The policeman who shot Nahel has expressed his regret to his family. He is accused of voluntary homicide and his attorney claimed he is “devastated.” He requested his family to forgive him. He reported the cop had shot at the latter’s chest after bumping into him while aiming for his leg.
A library burnt down in Alcazar
In a significant development, the largest library in Marseilles city in Alcazar was vandalised and torched by the rioters. According to local officials, a scuffle broke out nearby when police used tear gas to disperse a group of 100 to 150 people who allegedly tried to set up barricades. After that, the rioters targeted a number of public buildings, including the library located in the city centre.
Twitter owner Elon Musk equated the action to sacrilege.
In another location in the city, rioters used a truck to break into a shopping centre, which was then looted and burned.
Netizens Compare it with Nalanda
Following the attack on the library, Indians compared it to the burning of the Nalanda University library almost a thousand years ago.
Nalanda was a Buddhist monastic institution established during the Gupta Empire era in ancient Magdha, present-day Bihar in eastern India. It was considered by historians to be the world’s first residential university and among the greatest centres of learning in the ancient world.
However, in the fall of 1202 CE, the first troops of the Ghurid dynasty General Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji destroyed and began the demise of Nalanda and other monasteries near it, such as the Odantapura Vihar, now called Bihar Sharif, about 6 miles away from Nalanda. According to records, Nalanda library had 9 million books and manuscripts when it was burnt down by the Islamic invaders. It is said that the fire in the library burtn for 3 months.
Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji captured and looted the sacred institution. The majority of the locals there were Brahmans and every single one of them had their heads shaved and had been killed. Alcazar and Nalanda became prey to the barbarity of the same ideology during two entirely distinct historical periods.
Social media users couldn’t help but compare the devastation of Alcazar with that of Nalanda. Dr Anand Rangnathan stated, “Knowledge is everything. The villain understands this more than the victim,” while drawing a comparison between the two learning facilities.
A netizen commented, “Even the Library of Alexandria, was burned down on the orders of Umar ibn al-Khattab.” He added that those who read one ‘revealed book’ like to burn all others.
Another remarked that “history is repeating itself.” He further wrote that these people were given refugee by France to protect them.
A Twitter user compared libraries to “sacred sanctuaries of knowledge & heritage” and referred to their destruction as “cultural atrocity.”
One posted a meme to convey how the grave situation caused due to the major influx of refugees in Europe is a self-inflicted wound.
Background of the violence
Protests and unrest ensued in Paris suburbs after a teenager was killed by a police officer on 27 June. The 17-year-old named Nahel M. was a delivery agent. He was stopped by the police and was asked to show documents while he was driving when he tried to flee the scene during which shots were fired. One of the bullets hit him in the chest and he died on the spot.
The instruction to stop was issued under a routine traffic check. The victim was previously convicted of failing to stop at a signal as well as driving without a license. The accused official was detained on suspicion of manslaughter.
President of France Emmanuel Macron issued a statement over the incident. “We share the emotion and pain of the family and loved ones of the young man. I want to tell them our solidarity and the nation’s affection is with them.” He proclaimed that the gendarmes (paramilitary forces) and police are committed to serving the country and its people.
He voiced, “I thank them every day for that. They do so within an ethical framework that must be respected. It is up to justice to establish the truth and assign responsibility. I hope that this work can be completed quickly.”