IIn the wake of a funeral march for the youth who was shot dead during a police check near Paris, riots broke out again. In Nanterre, where around 6,000 people took part in the march for justice for the killed 17-year-old Nahel M., there were clashes between protesters and the police on Thursday evening.
As the newspaper “Le Parisien” and the broadcaster BFMTV reported, officials were thrown at with Molotov cocktails. Cars were also thrown over and set on fire. The police monitored the situation with helicopters and brought together special forces in Nanterre.
To prevent a third night of rioting, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin had announced the deployment of 40,000 police officers across the country. For safety reasons, tram and bus traffic in the greater Paris area should be stopped from 9 p.m. In the La Defense district of Paris, the opening of a festival was canceled for security reasons, and bans on the sale and carrying of fireworks were imposed.
The city of Clamart in the greater Paris area also imposed a curfew from Thursday evening to Monday from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. The city with around 54,000 inhabitants justified the unusual step with the risk of “new disturbances of public order” after two nights of rioting.
There were chaotic scenes in many places on Thursday night: cars and garbage cans burned in different parts of Paris and other French cities. Town halls and schools were set on fire, angry demonstrators threw paving stones and were sprayed with tear gas by security forces. A tram caught fire in a Paris suburb. Darmanin said Thursday morning that there had been a total of 150 arrests.
The clashes had escalated on Wednesday evening and spread to cities like Lyon in the south-east, Toulouse in the south-west and Brest in the east of France.
Nahel M. was shot dead on Tuesday in the driver’s seat of a car during a traffic check in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Video showed a police officer aiming his gun at the driver and shooting at point-blank range as the car suddenly accelerated. During the check, the sentence was previously heard: “You’ll get a bullet in the head.”
A formal investigation has been launched against the suspected shooter. The police officer was “accused of intentional killing” and taken into custody, the public prosecutor said on Thursday.
Macron calls violent protests ‘unjustified’
President Emmanuel Macron described the violent protests as “unjustified”. At a crisis meeting with several of his ministers on Thursday morning, he said the past few hours had been “marked by scenes of violence against a police station, schools and town halls and thus basically against the institutions and the republic”.
A funeral march started on Thursday afternoon, to which the youth’s mother had called. “For me, the next few hours must primarily lead to reflection and respect, and the funeral march must take place under this sign,” said Macron. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called for “any escalation” to be avoided.
The violent protests mark a new internal political crisis in France. Head of state Macron has just had six months of violent demonstrations over his controversial pension reform.
The scenes also evoke memories of 2005 in France, when serious unrest broke out after the accidental deaths of two young people fleeing from the police. “All the ingredients” for a possible “repeated explosion” are there, a government adviser, who asked not to be named, told the AFP news agency. Right-wing politicians called for a state of emergency to be declared, as in 2005. This would allow local authorities, for example, to declare riot scenes restricted areas. So far, however, the government has rejected this.
Excessive police violence is repeatedly denounced in France. After traffic checks, 13 people died last year, more than ever before.
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