France experienced violence and looting during a fourth night of protests. The police, who were present in large numbers, made over 1,300 arrests. As the country prepared for further clashes, the funeral of the teenager, who was tragically killed by an officer during a traffic stop, took place on Saturday.
According to the government, the level of violence has decreased compared to previous nights. However, the interior ministry has reported that there were 1,311 arrests made across the country overnight.
The number of protesters on that night was the highest since the protests started on Tuesday, which were triggered by the tragic death of 17-year-old Nahel due to a police bullet.
According to an AFP reporter, the funeral ceremony for him took place in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where he had been living. A large crowd gathered at the local cemetery, creating a tense atmosphere.
According to the provisional ministry numbers released on Saturday, it was reported that overnight, 1,350 vehicles and 234 buildings were set on fire. Additionally, there were 2,560 incidents of fire set in public spaces.
The ministry also mentioned that 79 police officers or gendarmes had sustained injuries.
Despite deploying 45,000 officers, which is the highest number since the protests began, France was unable to prevent the ongoing clashes. They were supported by light armoured vehicles and elite police units.
In the cities of Marseille, Lyon, and Grenoble, there were incidents of looting that authorities were unable to prevent. Groups of rioters, often wearing hoods, were seen stealing from shops.
According to a police source, there were riots in Paris and its suburbs despite the heavy rain that started early on Saturday. Around 406 people were arrested in and around the capital.
However, when Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin visited Mantes-la-Jolie, a town west of Paris, on Saturday, he stated that the violence during the night had been much less intense.
Darmanin had mentioned that there would be a “exceptional” deployment of police and gendarmes to address the riots following Nahel’s death.
There were many police vans near the entrance of the Vieux Pont district in Nanterre, where the unrest was happening. Nine people were arrested for carrying Molotov cocktails and petrol canisters.
The French national football team has also joined the calls for an end to the clashes.
The team expressed in a statement shared on social media by their captain and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe that it is now a time for mourning, dialogue, and reconstruction, replacing the period of violence.
Les Bleus expressed their shock over the tragic death of young Nahel and urged for violence to be replaced by peaceful and constructive means of self-expression.
There were clashes and looting in Marseille, a southern port city. The incidents occurred in the city center and in low-income neighborhoods that President Emmanuel Macron had visited earlier in the week.
According to the Marseille police, the individuals involved in the riots and looting were typically young people who were quite agile and frequently concealed their identities with masks.
According to a police source, a significant fire occurred in a supermarket that is believed to be connected to the riots.
Marseille’s mayor, Benoit Payan, has requested assistance from the central government to handle law enforcement matters.
There were instances of looting and clashes between protesters wearing hoods and the police in Grenoble, Saint-Etienne, and Lyon as well.
In France, the buses and trams no longer operate after 9:00 pm (1900 GMT) due to recent incidents where some of them were destroyed. Additionally, there is now a ban on the sale of large fireworks and flammable liquids.
The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, also shared that large-scale events throughout the country, including two concerts by the immensely popular singer Mylene Farmer at the Stade de France, have been canceled.
According to her staff, officials from various important ministries held a crisis meeting on Saturday to discuss the upcoming operational plans.
The cabinet ministers were requested to stay in Paris over the weekend.
The killing of Nahel has brought back old concerns about policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and multi-ethnic suburbs, which many consider to be unacceptable exploitation.
On Thursday, the mother of the teenager, Mounia, expressed that the officer, who is 38 years old and has been arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter, made the decision to end her son’s life simply because he saw an Arab face and a young child.
However, Macron, who initially expressed strong disapproval of the tragic death, also voiced his concern about the inappropriate use of the incident by some individuals and pledged to collaborate with social media platforms to prevent the spread of similar acts of violence.
He also emphasized the importance of parents taking responsibility for underage rioters, a significant portion of whom were classified as “young or very young.”
On Friday, the UN rights office expressed that the killing of the teenager of North African descent is a significant opportunity for the country to genuinely tackle the underlying problems of racism and racial discrimination within law enforcement.
There is growing concern overseas due to the unrest, especially because France is set to host the Rugby World Cup later this year and the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.
Britain and other European countries have recently revised their travel advice, cautioning tourists to avoid areas that have been impacted by the ongoing riots.
Chef Thierry Marx, who is the president of the main association for hotel and catering industry employers, mentioned that our hotel members have experienced a significant number of reservation cancellations in all the areas affected by the damage and clashes.