© Reuters. French riot police officers walk next to a vehicle upside down during the fifth day of protests following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop, in Paris, France, July 2, 2023. REUTE
By Benoit Van Overstraeten, Elizabeth Pineau
PARIS (Reuters) -The grandmother of the boy killed by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on Sunday said she wanted the nationwide rioting triggered by his death to end, after a fifth night of unrest.
Identified as Nadia by French media, she said the rioters were using 17-year-old Nahel’s death as an excuse to cause havoc and that the family wanted calm.
“Nahel is dead. My daughter is lost … she doesn’t have a life anymore,” Nadia told BFM TV.
“Don’t destroy the schools, don’t destroy the buses … I’m telling them [the rioters] to stop.”
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the latest overnight riots had been less intense, after 45,000 police were deployed following Saturday’s funeral of Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.
Since he was shot on Tuesday, rioters have torched cars and looted stores, but also targeted state institutions – town halls and police stations. The home of the mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses near Paris was attacked while his wife and children were asleep inside.
President Emmanuel Macron postponed a state visit to Germany that was due to begin on Sunday to handle the worst crisis for his leadership since the “Yellow Vest” protests gripped much of France in late 2018.
The government’s “crisis unit” has been activated until further notice, and Macron was due to meet his ministers later.
Nahel’s death has fed longstanding complaints of police violence and systemic racism – denied by authorities – inside law enforcement agencies from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs that ring major French cities.
An officer has acknowledged firing a lethal shot, the state prosecutor says, telling investigators he wanted to prevent a police chase that could have caused injury. The officer involved is under investigation for voluntary homicide.
The interior ministry said 719 people had been arrested on Saturday night, compared to 1,311 the previous night and 875 on Thursday night.
Paris’ police chief said it was too early to say the unrest had been quelled. “There was evidently less damage but we will remain mobilised in the coming days. We are very focused, nobody is claiming victory,” Laurent Nunez said.
The biggest overnight flashpoint was Marseille, where police fired teargas and fought street battles with youths around the city centre late into the night. There was also unrest in Paris, in the Mediterranean city of Nice and in Strasbourg in the east.
MAYOR’S HOME ATTACKED
China, along with some Western nations, has warned its citizens to be vigilant due to the unrest, which could pose a significant challenge for France in the peak summer tourism season if it were to envelop prominent attractions.
China’s consulate lodged a formal complaint after a bus carrying a Chinese tour group had its windows smashed in on Thursday, leading to minor injuries, China’s Consular Affairs Office said.
Tourist Ted Baughmend, 18, from Chicago, said in Paris: “I understand the protests and why they’re happening, but other than that, it’s very safe.”
In Paris, shop facades on the popular Avenue des Champs-Elysees were boarded up overnight, and there were sporadic clashes elsewhere. Police said six public buildings were damaged and five officers wounded.
In the Paris region, the home of the conservative mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses, Vincent Jeanbrun, was rammed with a vehicle, and his wife and children were attacked with fireworks as they escaped.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne visited the area on Sunday with the Paris region president, Valerie Pecresse, who blamed the violence on small, well-trained groups. “The Republic will not yield, and we will fight back,” she said.
As the mayor was greeted by well-wishers, a resident who gave her name as Marie-Christine said: “They’re smashing things up just to smash things up, they want to spread terror, attack elected officials and try to put the Republic in danger.”
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday that 10 malls had been looted in the wave of unrest, and more than 200 supermarkets had also been attacked, along with tobacconists, banks, fashion stores, and fast food outlets.
While Macron faced down widespread union-led protests this year over an increase in the pension age that left his ratings in tatters, any lengthy street uprising like the Yellow Vest protests over high fuel prices would pose a new challenge.
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