(AFP) — The grandmother of the French teenager whose fatal shooting by police has sparked several nights of unrest issued a plea for calm Sunday as the home of the mayor of a Paris suburb was attacked with a burning car in a new flaring of violence.
The government of President Emmanuel Macron has been battling five nights of violent protests since 17-year-old Nahel M. was shot dead in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday by an officer during a traffic check.
The killing of Nahel M, who was of Algerian origin, has revived longstanding accusations of institutional racism within the French police, which rights groups say single out minorities during controls.
Seeking to quell what has become one of the biggest challenges to Macron since he took office in 2017, the interior ministry has for the last two nights deployed 45,000 police and gendarmes nationwide, as well as helicopters and armoured vehicles.
The interior ministry said 719 people were arrested overnight, around half the figure from the previous night but with intense clashes still reported in several places, including the southern city of Marseille, but calmer elsewhere.
“Stop and do not riot,” Nahel’s grandmother, Nadia, told BFM television in a telephone interview, saying that the rioters were only using his death as a “pretext”.
“I tell the people who are rioting this: Do not smash windows, attack schools or buses. Stop! It’s the mums who are taking the bus, it’s the mums who walk outside,” she said.
France Deploys 45,000 Police on Fifth Night of Nationwide Riotshttps://t.co/CLwfZyoWXq
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 2, 2023
Politicians condemned the attack on the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the right-wing mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses outside Paris, in which assailants rammed a burning car into his home with the aim of setting it on fire, prosecutors said.
Jeanbrun’s wife and children, aged 5 and 7, were at home while the mayor himself was at the town hall to deal with the riots. The wife was “badly injured” sustaining a broken leg, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have opened an attempted murder investigation. “Last night the horror and disgrace reached a new level,” the mayor said in a statement.
“The situation was much calmer” overall, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told reporters as she visited L’Hay-les-Roses.
“But an act of the kind we saw this morning here is particularly shocking. We will let no violence get by” unpunished, she said, urging that the perpetrators be sanctioned with the “utmost severity”.
Some 7,000 police were deployed in Paris and its suburbs alone, including along the Champs Elysees avenue in the capital, a tourist hotspot, following calls on social media to take the rioting to the heart of the city.
The massive police presence helped keep the violence in check, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.
“A calmer night thanks to the resolute action of the security forces,” he tweeted early Sunday.
But Paris police chief Laurent Nunez cautioned on BFM television that “No one is declaring victory”.
In Marseille, which has seen intense clashes and looting, police dispersed groups of youths Saturday evening at Canebiere, the main avenue running through the centre of the city, AFP journalists said.
The protests present a fresh crisis for Macron, who had been hoping to press on with the pledges of his second term after seeing off months of protests that erupted in January over raising the retirement age.
Macron Cancels Trip to Germany as Riots Rage Onhttps://t.co/0ggDXjurr5
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) July 1, 2023