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Nearly 1,000 rioters were arrested last night for taking part in the most violent protests France has experienced in years, according to estimates by Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.
The killing of a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent by a police officer on Tuesday unleashed violent demonstrations in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the teen was shot. The violence then spread across the entire country and its main cities.
The shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel M., reignited long-simmering tensions between the youth of the banlieues – typically disadvantaged and multi-ethnic neighborhoods — and the police, accused of brutality and racial discrimination.
Nahel’s funeral is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Nanterre, with authorities tensing for more demonstrations.
To address the turmoil, France deployed 45,000 police and gendarmes across all major cities on Friday night, of which 5,000 were tasked with patrolling Paris. Authorities also set curfews around the capital, banned public gatherings in certain municipalities and halted all bus and tram services after 9 p.m.
Despite the massive security efforts, the unrest doesn’t seem to be calming down, with public buildings, hotels, stores and cars continuing to be targeted and set ablaze. The Interior Ministry said early Saturday that 1,350 vehicles and 234 buildings were torched overnight, plus 2,560 incidents of fire set in public spaces, AFP reported.
Darmanin said that 200 police officers have been injured since the start of the rioting.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the killing of the teenager was “inexplicable” and “inexcusable,” although he also promptly blamed social media for spreading violent content and stoking the violence after the tragic event.
“We’ve seen violent gatherings organized on several [social media platforms] — but also a kind of mimicry of violence,” Macron said on Friday, accusing younger rioters of “living the video games that have intoxicated them.”
Events including two concerts at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris were cancelled. Tour de France organizers said they were ready to adapt to any situation when the race enters the country on Monday after starting in the Spanish city of Bilbao, Reuters reported.
Religious leaders, including Chems-Eddine Hafiz, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, called for the violence to stop.
France fears a repeat of the civil unrest in 2005, when three weeks of riots rocked the country after two teenagers of African origins were electrocuted in a power substation while trying to escape the police.
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