France deploys 45,000 police to quell 'unacceptable' riots

France deploys 45,000 police to quell 'unacceptable' riots
French President Emmanuel Macron urged parents to keep minors off the streets as he battled to contain nightly riots over a teenager's fatal shooting by an officer in a traffic stop.
4 min read
Riots Continue four days after a 17-year-old man was killed by police in Paris. (Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOME-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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 over the shooting, which took place during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on Tuesday.

Despite the security presence, looting took place on Friday night in the cities of Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble with bands of often hooded rioters pillaging shops.

Protesters also set fire to cars and trash bins.

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 after youths threw projectiles at police vehicles in the Vieux-Port district, which is popular with tourists.

Marseille mayor Benoit Payan called for troop reinforcements saying the "scenes of looting and violence are unacceptable".

Eighty people were arrested in Marseille among the 270 nationwide Friday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

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.


'Day of reflection' 


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.  The family's lawyers asked journalists to stay away, saying it was "a day of reflection" for Nahel's relatives.

Macron has attempted to strike a balance between pressure for a harsh response and fears of triggering a stronger backlash. Interior Minister Darmanin said crack units from both the police and the paramilitary gendarme force were among the 45,000 officers deployed Friday. "These next few hours will be decisive," Darmanin wrote in a note to the emergency services.

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 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".

 '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.

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.