France on Friday deployed 45,000 officers backed by light armoured vehicles to tackle a fourth straight night of violent protests after the fatal police shooting of a teenager.
Crack police units and other security forces fanned out across the country to quell violence and rioting over the shooting, which took place during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on Tuesday.
French President Emmanuel Macron, after rushing back from an EU summit to chair a crisis meeting, denounced the “unacceptable exploitation of a death of an adolescent” in some quarters.
The unrest was sparked by the killing of 17-year-old Nahel, which revived longstanding grievances about policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and multi-ethnic suburbs.
He is due to be buried in a ceremony on Saturday, according to the mayor of Nanterre — the Paris suburb where he lived and was killed.
Macron has attempted to strike a balance between pressure for a harsh response and fears of triggering a stronger backlash.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told TF1 television that crack units from both the police and the paramilitary gendarme force were among the 45,000 officers deployed Friday.
This compares with 40,000 the night before, when the police force failed to prevent 492 structures being damaged, 2,000 vehicles being burned and 3,880 fires started nationwide, according to government figures.
“These next few hours will be decisive,” Darmanin wrote in a note to the emergency services.
“The human and material reinforcements that we are currently sending will give you (…) the means to defend the Republic and its values,” he added.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also announced the cancellations of large-scale events — such as concerts — across the country.
Buses and trams, targeted in some of the previous nights’ violence, stopped running at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) and the sale of large fireworks and inflammable liquids has been banned.
– ‘Very young’ rioters –
Macron urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, one-third of whom were “young or very young”.
And he vowed to work with social networks to curb “copycat violence” spread via services such as TikTok and Snapchat.
France has been rocked by successive nights of protests since Nahel was shot at point-blank range during a traffic stop captured on video.
In her first media interview since the shooting, Nahel’s mother, Mounia, told France 5 television: “I don’t blame the police, I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son.”
She said the 38-year-old officer responsible, who was detained and charged with voluntary manslaughter on Thursday, “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”.
The government is desperate to avoid a repeat of 2005’s weeks-long urban riots, sparked by the death of two boys of African origin in a police chase, during which 6,000 people were arrested.
The UN rights office said Friday that the killing of the teen of North African descent was “a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement”
A foreign ministry statement dismissed that charge as “totally unfounded”.
On Thursday, two major police unions said they were “at war” with rioters, who they likened to “vermin”.
Prosecutors in Marseille opened an investigation into attempted murder after two police officers in civilian clothes were attacked by a gang of 20 people in the southern city overnight.
– ‘Bullet in the head’ –
The Paris region’s bus and tram lines remained “severely disrupted” on Friday, the RATP transport operator said, after a dozen vehicles were torched overnight in a depot and some routes were blocked or damaged.
There was daylight looting Friday in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where rioters targeted an Apple Store and other shops.
Police used teargas in the southern city of Marseille on Friday evening after youths threw stones at police vehicles in the Vieux-Port district, which is popular with tourists.
A curfew was installed in at least three towns in the Paris region and several others elsewhere in the country.
“The time of violence must give way to that of mourning, dialogue and reconstruction,” the French national football team said in a statement posted on social media by Kylian Mbappe.
The players said they were “marked and shocked by the brutal death of young Nahel”, but asked that violence be replaced by “other peaceful and constructive ways of expressing oneself”.
Nahel was killed as he pulled away from police who had stopped him for a traffic infraction.
A video, authenticated by AFP, showed two police officers standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver.
A voice is heard saying: “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”
The police officer then appears to fire as the car abruptly drives off. The officer has been charged with voluntary homicide and remanded in custody.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)