France riots: nearly 500 arrested but fewer incidents reported in fifth night of unrest

Arrests on Sunday evening fell to nearly 500 after 1,300 people were arrested on Saturday night

Hundreds arrested in France as rioters clash with police for fourth night

Hundreds arrested in France as rioters clash with police for fourth night
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French authorities deployed reinforcements to flashpoint cities and made hundreds of arrests as rioting continued across France on Sunday, the fifth night of unrest sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old who was laid to rest the day before.

A total of 486 people had been arrested across France as of 3am on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said, though the level of violence appeared to have declined since rioting first broke out over the death of Nahel M. in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.

"A calmer night thanks to the resolute action of the security forces," Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted early on Sunday.

In Marseille, police dispersed groups of young people on Saturday evening at Canebiere, the main avenue running through the centre of the city, AFP journalists said.

By midnight, the authorities in Lyon and Marseille were reporting fewer incidents than the previous night, with 77 people arrested as of around 1.30 am in the two cities.

A number of towns have imposed overnight curfews.

On Saturday, friends gathered at the funeral of Nahel M, the teenager whose killing by police sparked the unrest.

The funeral began at 11am local time near Nanterre, the Paris suburb where Nahel lived and was shot dead on Tuesday. “A big number” of local residents and friends of the 17-year-old flocked to the funeral home to pay their respects, according to French media reports.

The funeral is private, and lawyers for Nahel’s mother asked the media to stay away.

Overnight cars and buildings were set ablaze and stores looted, despite a heavy police presence.

The government suggested the violence was beginning to ease thanks to tougher security measures, but damage remained widespread, from Paris to Marseille and Lyon and French territories overseas, where a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana.

Authorities in Marseille announced that public transport was halted after 5pm over the weekend and that all public events were cancelled.

A young man died after falling from a supermarket roof in the suburbs of Rouen during Saturday's riots, local authorities said.

France’s national football team – including international star Kylian Mbappe, an idol to many young people in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the anger is rooted – pleaded for an end to the violence.

“Many of us are from working-class neighbourhoods. We, too, share this feeling of pain and sadness,” the players said in a statement.

“Violence resolves nothing. … There are other peaceful and constructive ways to express yourself.”

They said it was time for “mourning, dialogue and reconstruction” instead.

The fatal shooting of Nahel, whose last name has not been made public, stirred up simmering tensions between police and young people in housing projects who struggle with poverty, unemployment and racial discrimination.

The rioting is the worst in France in years and puts pressure on President Emmanuel Macron, who appealed to parents to keep children off the streets and blamed social media for fuelling violence.

Anger first erupted in Nanterre after Nahel's death there on Tuesday and quickly spread nationwide.

Early on Saturday, firefighters in Nanterre extinguished blazes set by protesters that left scorched remains of cars strewn across the streets. In the neighbouring suburb of Colombes, protesters overturned bins and used them as makeshift barricades.

Looters broke into a gun shop and took weapons in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, police said. Officers there arrested about 90 people as groups of protesters set cars on fire, broke shop windows and began looting.

Buildings and businesses were also vandalised in the eastern city of Lyon, where a third of the roughly 30 arrests made were for theft, police said. Authorities reported fires in the streets after an unauthorised protest drew more than 1,000 people earlier on Friday evening.

The Interior Ministry said 1,311 arrests were made on Saturday night, with more than 2,500 incidents of fire in public spaces. The night before, 917 people were arrested nationwide, 500 buildings attacked, 2,000 vehicles burnt and dozens of stores ransacked.

While the number of overnight arrests was the highest yet, there were fewer fires, cars burnt and police stations attacked around France than the previous night, according to the Interior Ministry.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin claimed the violence was of “much less intensity.”

Hundreds of police and firefighters have been injured, including 79 overnight, but authorities have not released injury tallies for protesters.

Nanterre Mayor Patrick Jarry said France needs to “push for changes” in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Organisers of the Tour de France have said they will go ahead with the cycling race which begins in Spain on Saturday morning, but that they will amend its course if needed once it enters France on Monday.

The UAE embassy in Paris on Saturday issued an alert, calling on citizens to stay away from demonstration areas.

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Sunday expressing "full solidarity with the French Republic, stressing the importance of restoring calm, de-escalation, and respect for the rules and principles of law in France."

Updated: July 02, 2023, 4:53 AM