PARIS, (REUTERS) – The grandmother of the teenager shot dead by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb said on Sunday she wanted the nationwide rioting triggered by his killing to end, as France braced for a potential sixth night of unrest.
Some 45,000 police were deployed again on Sunday night, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmnin, to deter rioters who have torched cars, looted stores and targeted town halls and police stations — including the home of the mayor of a Paris suburb, which was attacked while his wife and children were asleep inside.
President Emmanuel Macron postponed a state visit to Germany to deal with the crisis. He was due to meet with leaders of parliament on Monday and with more than 220 mayors of towns and cities that have been affected by riots on Tuesday.
The interior ministry reported 719 arrests following Saturday’s funeral for Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, down from 1,311 on Friday night and 875 on Thursday night.
But officials cautioned it was too early to say the unrest was over.
“There was evidently less damage but we will remain mobilised in the coming days. We are very focused, nobody is claiming victory,” Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said.
‘TELLING THEM TO STOP’
Nahel’s grandmother, identified as Nadia by French media, said the rioters were using the 17-year-old’s death last Tuesday as an excuse to cause havoc and that the family wanted calm.
“I’m telling them to stop,” she told BFM TV.
“Nahel is dead. My daughter is lost … she doesn’t have a life anymore.”
Asked about a crowdfunding campaign that had received pledges of more than 670,000 euros ($731,000) for the police officer charged with voluntary homicide over the shooting, Nadia said: “My heart aches.”
The riots amount to the worst crisis for Macron since the “Yellow Vest” protests gripped much of France in late 2018.
In mid-April, Macron gave himself 100 days to bring reconciliation and unity to a divided country after rolling strikes and sometimes-violent protests over his raising of the retirement age, which he had promised in his election campaign.
Instead, Nahel’s death has fed longstanding complaints of discrimination, police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies – denied by authorities – from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs that ring major French cities.
The officer involved has acknowledged firing a lethal shot, the state prosecutor says, telling investigators he wanted to prevent a dangerous police chase. His lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard has said he did not intend to kill the teenager.
TEARGAS IN MARSEILLE
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 Riviera city of Nice and in Strasbourg in the east.
The unrest delivers a blow to France’s image a year before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
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.
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.
Borne visited the area on Sunday with the conservative 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.”
The far-right Rassemblement National party of Marine Le Pen, Macron’s main challenger in last year’s presidential vote, has doubled down in its portrayal of Macron as weak on immigration.