France riots: As violent demonstrations in France entered their fourth day, protesters have resorted to looting expensive mobile handsets, fashion outlets and even high-end bikes, while setting off fires in several areas, despite President Emmanuel Macron repeatedly appealing for calm and peace. Nearly 1,000 protesters have been arrested by the police.
The chaotic situation in France has developed after a police officer fatally shot a teenage delivery driver in Nanterre, a suburban area of Paris. Several videos on social media show youngsters driving expensive sports bikes, barging into and looting an iPhone store, hurling projectiles at police and setting fires all across the country, including the cities of Marseille and Lyon.
France is facing one of its worst riots in years, putting immense pressure on Macron ahead of the summer Olympic games. Amid the severe law and order crisis, the French police has deployed 45,000 troops across the country in an attempt to quell the rising unrest. Some officers were called back from vacation.The police have fired tear gas on protesters, while all public buses and trams have been shut down since Friday following an order for interior minister Gerald Darmanin.
At least 994 people have been arrested across France, as per the Interior Ministry on Saturday. The ministry reported more than 2,500 fires, thousands of vehicles set on fire, numerous stores ransacked and several buildings damaged. Meanwhile, a 54-year-old man was killed by a stray bullet on Thursday in Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana.
Here are five points about what we know about the violent protests in France.
- On Tuesday, officers tried to pull 17-year-old Nahel over because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish license plates in a bus lane. He allegedly ran a red light to avoid being stopped and then got stuck in traffic.
- In a footage of the incident, two policemen were standing aside the car and one officer firing into the window just as the vehicle pulled away. The car crashed into a nearby post and Nahel died on the scene.
- The police officer accused of pulling the trigger was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude that the officer’s use of his weapon wasn’t legally justified. The officer has been placed in preliminary detention.
- The officer said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car as Nahel attempted to flee, according to the prosecutor. Nahel’s mother, identified as Mounia M., told France 5 television that she was angry at the officer but not at the police in general. “He saw a little Arab-looking kid, he wanted to take his life,” she said, adding that justice should be “very firm.”
- As many as 13 people were fatally shot by French police for not complying with traffic rules in 2022. Nahel was among the three people who were killed under similar circumstances this year, leading to massive outrage over racial discrimination and demands of greater accountability.
Since the fatal shooting in Nanterre, protesters started setting fire on barricades, demolishing bus stops and hurling firecrackers on the police, while the latter responded by firing tear gas and dispersion grenades. President Macron's repeated calls for calm and allegations of social media posts being used to fuel unrest have also fallen on deaf ears.
“A police officer cannot take his gun and fire at our children, take our children’s lives,” said the victim's mother.
The interior ministry said that the intensity of violence on Friday had reduced from the previous night, with fewer fires, burning cars and attacks on police.
Darmanin said that Nahel's death “cannot justify the disorder and the delinquency,”. French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti also called for “firm sanctions” against the rioters, asserting that looting and attacking people cannot help in achieving justice.
Macron is yet to officially declare a national emergency, as was done in 2005 when protests emerged after two teenagers, Bouna Traoré and Zyed Benna were electrocuted to death while hiding from the police in a power substation in another Paris suburb Clichy-sous-Bois. He has directed social media platforms to take down sensitive visuals of the protests.
As of now, hundreds of police officers have been injured amid the protesters, including 79 on Friday night. The figures for injured protesters has not been released yet.
(with agency inputs)