Mostly young rioters have clashed with police and looted shops in a fourth day of violence across France, while unrest was also reported in some French overseas territories, following the police killing of a 17-year-old during a traffic check earlier this week.
Some 45,000 police officers backed by light armoured vehicles were deployed on Friday, yet despite the heavy security operation looting and rioting took place in the cities of Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble with bands of youths pillaging shops, setting fires and pelting officers with projectiles.
Despite repeated government appeals for calm and harsh policing that has seen hundreds arrested, Friday witnessed daylight violence in several areas.
An Apple store was looted in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where police fired tear gas, and the windows of a fast-food outlet were smashed in a Paris-area shopping mall, where officers also repelled people trying to break into a shuttered store, authorities said.
The southern port city of Marseille experienced its second night of upheaval. Before nightfall, young people hurled projectiles, set fires, and looted shops, police said, including a gun shop where looters made off with weapons, and a man was later arrested with a hunting rifle.
Marseille mayor Benoit Payan called for reinforcements of French soldiers saying the “scenes of looting and violence are unacceptable”.
Eighty people were arrested in Marseille among the 270 nationwide on Friday night alone, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, adding in a tweet that “reinforcements are arriving at this time”.
A cette heure, déjà 270 interpellations dont plus de 80 à Marseille, où des renforts importants arrivent en ce moment.
— Gérald DARMANIN (@GDarmanin) June 30, 2023
[Translation: At this time, already 270 arrests including more than 80 in Marseille, where important reinforcements are arriving at this time.]
Authorities in the city of Lyon reported rioters again setting fires and pelting police in the suburbs. In the city centre, police made 31 arrests to stop the attempted looting of shops after an unauthorised protest against police violence that drew about 1,300 people on Friday evening.
Violence was also erupting in some of France’s territories overseas.
In French Guiana, a 54-year-old was killed by a stray bullet on Thursday night when rioters fired at police in the capital, Cayenne, authorities said.
On the small Indian Ocean island of Reunion, protesters set rubbish bins ablaze, threw projectiles at police, and damaged cars and buildings, officials said. Some 150 police officers were deployed there Friday night.
‘Copycat violence’: Macron
The fatal shooting of 17-year-old Nahel M was captured on video, shocking France and stirring up long-simmering tensions between police, young people in the country’s housing projects and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and racism in French society.
French President Emmanuel Macron, after rushing back from a European Union summit to chair a crisis meeting on Friday, denounced the “unacceptable exploitation of a death of an adolescent” in some quarters, but he did not declare a state of emergency. Macron urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, one-third of whom were “young or very young”, he said.
And he promised to work with social media platforms to curb “copycat violence” spread via services such as TikTok and Snapchat.
The government would establish procedures for “the removal of the most sensitive content”, he said, adding that he expected “a spirit of responsibility” from tech companies.
Snapchat spokesperson Rachel Racusen said the company had increased its moderation since Tuesday to detect and act on content related to the rioting.
Nahel is due to be buried in a ceremony on Saturday, according to the mayor of Nanterre – the suburb of Paris where he lived and was killed.
The family’s lawyers asked journalists to stay away, saying it was “a day of reflection” for Nahel’s relatives.
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 police officer responsible for killing her son, and who was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter on Thursday, “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”.
The United Nations human rights office said on 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 French foreign ministry statement dismissed that charge as “totally unfounded”.
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