French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Friday that the government was considering “all options” to restore order, including declaring a state of emergency, after a third night of rioting over a police officer’s killing of a youth.
Asked by reporters if a state of emergency was a possibility, as some right-wing opposition parties have demanded, Borne replied: “I won’t tell you now, but we are looking at all options, with one priority: restoring order throughout the country”.
The prime minister, who was visiting a police station in Evry-Courcouronnes south of Paris, is to attend a crisis security meeting chaired by President Emmanuel Macron at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT).
A state of emergency would give authorities increased powers to declare localised curfews, ban demonstrations, and give police more freedom in restraining suspected rioters and searching homes.
Macron cut short a trip to Brussels for an EU summit on Friday and was said by an aide to be prepared to adopt new measures “without taboos”, though some ministers in the cabinet are known to be opposed to a state of emergency.
During the nationwide urban riots in 2005, the right-wing government at the time declared a state of emergency after around two weeks of clashes, the first time the measure had been used in mainland France since the 1950s.
“We are calling for a curfew initially, then the imposition of a full state of emergency and the mobilisation of all the forces of law and order in the country,” spokesman for the far-right National Rally Sebastien Chenu told LCI television Friday.
“Right now we’re at the bottom of a cliff and we need to be extremely tough,” he said.
The head of the right-wing Republicans party, Eric Ciotti, had called for a state of emergency on Thursday, saying “The nation cannot waver in any circumstances”.
Around 40,000 security forces were deployed on Thursday evening and 875 people were arrested overnight, according to the interior ministry.
– ‘Admission of failure?’ –
France lived under a state of emergency for two years following the November 2015 terror attacks by jihadist gunmen that left 130 people dead at the Bataclan concert hall, restaurants and the national sports stadium.
Many of the anti-terror provisions in the emergency law, including giving the government powers to close places of worship and restrain people without trial, were included in a new law passed in 2017 under Macron that was widely criticised by civil liberties groups.
An aide to Macron had played down the possibility of emergency law on Thursday, saying that there was “no need for an over-reaction”.
Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Olivier Klein also spoke out against it on Friday, telling France Inter radio that it would be “an admission of failure”.
“I think we still have other options,” he said.
Clamart, a suburb southwest of Paris, became the first area to declare a nightly curfew on Thursday, while public bus and tram services in the capital region were stopped at 9:00 pm — a measure that will now be imposed nightly for an indefinite period.