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The French government said rioting and looting had calmed as it kept up a heavy security deployment to try to quell the unrest that has exploded in the five days since a fatal police shooting of a teenager.
“Quieter night thanks to the resolute action of the police,” interior minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter early on Sunday.
Some 719 arrests were made overnight compared with 1,311 on Friday, and the number of fires also more than halved, according to the ministry. About 50 of the 45,000 police officers deployed across France to quell the rioting were injured, far fewer than in previous nights.
Reinforcements included units specialising in urban violence. Armoured vehicles were deployed in Marseille and Lyon, where looting in the city centres was particularly bad. Police also blocked off the Champs Élysées in Paris to try to prevent the luxury shops there from being ransacked.
Despite the unrest, central Paris was functioning normally on Sunday, although a host of events had been cancelled in recent days. Luxury group LVMH said on Sunday that it would call off the menswear show for its high-end fashion brand Céline.
“A fashion show in Paris, while France and its capital are grieving and bruised, seems from my own point of view, inconsiderate and totally out of place,” designer Hedi Slimane wrote on Instagram.
Unrest in Marseille, France on July 1 2023
Unrest in Marseille, France on July 1 2023 © AKUURA
Unrest in Marseille, France on July 1 2023
The unrest is a fresh political challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who cancelled a state visit to Germany this week so as to focus on the government’s response. The president will meet the prime minister, the minister of the interior and the justice minister on Sunday evening, the Élysée said.
It is the third episode of violent protests that Macron has faced since being elected president in 2017, after the gilets jaunes movement that began in 2018 over a proposed fuel tax and a series of protests this year over his unpopular pensions reform.
The killing on Tuesday of Nahel, 17, whose last name has not been made public, has stoked a wave of anger that began in Nanterre, the Paris suburb where he lived, and spread to cities and towns across France.
The fatal shooting, which occurred after the teenager of North African descent had been held at a traffic stop, has exacerbated tensions between the police and young people in low-income areas that are home to minorities and immigrants, who face racial profiling by police and discrimination in housing and job opportunities, according to official studies.
A man is detained by police in Paris in the early hours of Sunday © Nacho Doce/AKUURA
The outcry grew quickly after a video of the incident was shared on social media, showing no apparent immediate threat to the two officers who were trying to stop the teenager’s car.
Preliminary charges of voluntary homicide have been filed against one of the officers involved and he is in pre-trial detention, a rare step in such cases in France.
The rioters have often targeted symbols of the state such as town halls and police stations. In a troubling escalation, the home of the mayor of Parisian suburb L’Haÿ-les-Roses was attacked on Saturday night by unidentified individuals who sent a burning car towards the residence. No one was hurt and police are investigating an attempted murder.
“A line was crossed,” Laurent Nuñez, Paris police prefect, said of the attack, speaking on BFM TV. Despite the lower levels of unrest overnight “we remain extremely focused, no one is crying victory yet”, he added.
A private funeral for Nahel took place on Saturday at a hilltop cemetery in Nanterre, and a ceremony was held at a nearby mosque.
The situation in Nanterre, a demographically mixed area that includes the business district La Défense and large high-rises of social housing, was calm as residents went about their daily shopping and dined on sunny café terraces.
“I support the family of Nahel, but I am against the violence and breaking things,” said Yamid Bensoussan, a waiter at a local restaurant. “Most people here feel that way.”