France was hit by a third night of riots on Thursday which saw clashes in towns and cities across the country, schools burned and shops looted on Paris’s Rue du Rivoli. Police made almost 700 arrests across the country.
Around 40,000 police were deployed on Thursday night, but it was not enough to stop trouble flaring in towns and cities across France – buildings including mairies and schools were burned and police attacked with fireworks and missiles.
Massive fires were reported in parts of France like Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille, police said on Thursday. A bus depot in a suburb north of Paris and a tram in the eastern city of Lyon, also witnessed fire.
In total 667 people were arrested, interior minister Gérald Darmanin announced, and 247 police officers injured in what he described as “a night of rare violence”. Overall 492 buildings and 2,000 vehicles were burned and 3,880 fires started nationwide, according to official figures.
Thursday night also saw incidences of looting, with small groups of youths venturing in to central Paris and trashing several shops on the Rue du Rivoli, close to the Louvre.
One of the many distressing videos circulating on social media showed a devastating scene of rioters in France setting ablaze the largest public library in the city of Marseille. The footage shows flames engulfing the institution, symbolising the loss of knowledge, culture, and community resources. This act of destruction represents a tragic blow to the city’s cultural heritage and a deeply concerning manifestation of the ongoing unrest.
This is not the first Fatal Killing
Tuesday’s killing was the third fatal shooting during traffic stops in France so far in 2023, down from a record 13 last year, a spokesperson for the national police said.
There were three such killings in 2021 and two in 2020, according to a Reuters tally, which shows the majority of victims since 2017 were Black or of Arab origin, which is causing the much uproar.
What caused these riots?
A major outcry ensued following the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old teenager named Nahel M, who had Algerian and Moroccan heritage, during a traffic stop. The teenager was tragically struck in the chest. The police officer responsible for the shooting has been formally investigated for voluntary homicide, as confirmed by a local prosecutor. Reports from Reuters indicate that the officer will be held in preventive detention, awaiting further legal proceedings.
The public prosecutor stated that the officer’s intention was to prevent a potential car chase, fearing harm to himself or others after the teenager purportedly committed multiple traffic violations.
The teenager Nahel M, allegedly failed to comply with a police order to stop his car. He was driving a rental car when police pulled him over for breaking several road rules, prosecutors said.
A video circulating on social media, authenticated by the French news agency AFP, shows two police officers trying to stop the vehicle, with one pointing his weapon at the driver through the window and firing at close range when he apparently continues to drive and crashed after a few meters.
President Macron urged Citizens to keep calm
Emmanuel Macron has urged parents to keep teenagers at home as France’s government said it was reviewing “all options” to contain escalating violence after three nights of rioting sparked by the fatal police shooting of a teenager at a traffic stop.
The deadly police shooting was “inexplicable” and “unforgivable”, Macron said on Wednesday, as the government raced to ease tensions.
“A teenager was killed. That is inexplicable and unforgivable,” he said during a visit to the Mediterranean city Marseille, saying the case had “moved the entire nation”.
Promising additional security forces would be deployed on Friday night, Macron, who left an EU summit in Brussels early to attend a crisis cabinet meeting, appealed to “the responsibility of mothers and fathers” and said it was not the job of the French republic to take their place.
The French president also said social media was playing a “considerable role” in the unrest that led to 875 arrests on Thursday, saying violence was being organised online and he wanted platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok to remove sensitive content.
“We sometimes have the feeling that some of them are playing out the video games that have intoxicated them in the streets,” Macron said, hours after mainly teenage rioters again torched buildings, cars and buses and looted shops across France.