French President Emmanuel Macron will hold an emergency cabinet meeting for the second time in two days on Friday, following a night of rioting marked by unprecedented destruction in protest of the fatal shooting of a teenager by police.
As authorities reported hundreds of police injuries and hundreds of arrests during the overnight clashes, rioters engaged in confrontations with officers in various towns and cities across France. Buildings and vehicles were set ablaze, storefronts were vandalized, and buses were overturned.
In an effort to quell the unrest on the third night, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin deployed 40,000 officers, leading to a total of 667 arrests, as he announced on Twitter.
Violence erupted not only in Paris but also in Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse, Lille, and other parts of the country. The unrest was triggered by the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Nahel M., of Algerian and Moroccan descent, during a traffic stop in the working-class suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.
Nationwide, authorities reported that 249 police officers were injured during the clashes.
Macron, who was attending a European Union summit in Brussels, will meet with his cabinet at 1100 GMT in Paris, potentially cutting his summit attendance short. The president has thus far refrained from declaring a state of emergency.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne condemned the violence as “intolerable and inexcusable” in a tweet and expressed her support for the police and firefighters who bravely carried out their duties.
Transport Minister Clement Beaune announced on RMC radio that public transportation in the Paris region would face significant disruptions on Friday, and he did not rule out the possibility of an early closure of the network. In a depot in Aubervilliers, northern Paris, twelve buses were set on fire and destroyed overnight.
Videos shared on social media depicted numerous fires across the country, including a tram set ablaze in the eastern city of Lyon.
In Nanterre, located on the outskirts of Paris, protesters set cars on fire, erected barricades on streets, and threw projectiles at police following an initially peaceful vigil held in honor of the deceased teenager.
At the Chatelet Les Halles shopping mall in central Paris, a Nike shoe store was looted, and several individuals were arrested for smashing store windows along the adjacent Rue de Rivoli shopping street, according to the Paris police. They reported a total of 307 arrests in and around the city and stated that nine police and fire officers had been injured.
The death of Nahel M. has reignited long-standing grievances over police violence and systemic racism within law enforcement agencies, voiced by human rights groups and residents of low-income, racially diverse suburbs surrounding major French cities.
The police officer who allegedly admitted to firing the fatal shot at the teenager has been placed under formal investigation for voluntary homicide, the equivalent of being charged in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions. He is currently held in preventive detention. The officer’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, stated on BFM TV that his client had aimed towards the driver’s leg but was jostled, causing the shot to strike the chest. Lienard emphasized that “obviously, the officer didn’t want to kill the driver.”
In southern France, police deployed tear gas grenades as clashes between youths and law enforcement prompted the evacuation of the popular tourist spot, Le Vieux Port, in Marseille. Authorities reported 56 arrests and 38 injured officers in the area. In the northern city of Roubaix, the office of the TESSI company was destroyed by fire, and several cars were set ablaze.
The current unrest evokes memories of the 2005 riots