French Riots: 1,000 arrested prior to teenager’s funeral

France experienced a fourth night of protests marked by violence and looting, leading to nearly 1,000 arrests.

The police force was heavily deployed, anticipating further riots before the funeral of a teenager who was fatally shot by an officer during a routine traffic stop.

The government acknowledged a decrease in the intensity of the violence compared to previous nights, although the interior ministry reported 994 arrests across the country overnight, with 79 injuries sustained by police and gendarmes.

These figures represent the highest number of arrests in a single night since the protests began on Tuesday following the death of 17-year-old Nahel.

The provisional data released early Saturday revealed the destruction of 1,350 vehicles, 234 buildings set on fire, and 2,560 incidents of public space arson.

Despite the deployment of 45,000 officers, the largest number since the start of the protests, along with the support of light armored vehicles and elite police units, looting persisted in Marseille, Lyon, and Grenoble, as groups of rioters, often wearing masks, ransacked shops.

The unrest also escalated in Paris, with approximately half of the nationwide arrests (406) occurring in and around the capital.

While Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin claimed that the violence of the night had significantly diminished during his visit to Mantes-la-Jolie, west of Paris, nine individuals were arrested for possessing Molotov cocktails and petrol canisters near the epicenter of the unrest in the Vieux Pont district of Nanterre.

The deceased teenager would be buried on Saturday in Nanterre, his hometown.

The French national football team added their voice to the calls for an end to the clashes, emphasizing the need for mourning, dialogue, and reconstruction.

The team expressed shock at Nahel’s tragic death and urged a shift towards peaceful and constructive means of expression.

Marseille witnessed further clashes and looting, with unrest spreading from the city center to neglected low-income neighborhoods that President Emmanuel Macron had visited earlier in the week.

The rioters and looters were described as highly mobile young individuals, often concealing their identities with masks.

A major fire erupted in a supermarket, believed to be linked to the riots, prompting Marseille’s mayor to request additional law enforcement assistance from the central government.

Looting and clashes between hooded protesters and police were also reported in Grenoble, Saint-Etienne, and Lyon.

“As a result, buses and trams in France now cease operation after 9:00 pm, and the sale of large fireworks and inflammable substances has been prohibited,” a report says.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the cancellation of large-scale events nationwide, including two concerts by renowned singer Mylene Farmer at the Stade de France.

The killing of Nahel has reignited long-standing concerns about policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and multi-ethnic suburbs.

The teenager’s mother expressed her belief that the officer responsible wanted to take her son’s life due to his Arab ethnicity.

While Macron condemned the death as “unforgivable,” he also criticized the exploitation of the incident and pledged to collaborate with social media platforms to combat imitative violence.

He called on parents to assume responsibility for underage rioters, a significant proportion of whom were young or very young.

The UN rights office declared the killing of the teenager, who was of North African descent, as a critical moment for France to address issues of racism and racial discrimination within law enforcement.

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