600 arrests and 200 police officers injured in France’s third night of protests over the killing of a teenager

NANTERRE, France (AP) — Protesters set up barricades, set fires and fired firecrackers at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons in French streets overnight as tensions rose over police’s fatal shooting of a 17-year-old shocked the nation. More than 600 people were arrested and at least 200 police officers injured as the government struggled to restore order during the third night of unrest.

Armored police vehicles rammed the charred remains of cars that had been turned over and set ablaze in the northwest Paris suburb of Nanterre, where a police officer shot dead the teenager, identified only by his first name, Nahel. On the other side of Paris, protesters started a fire at the town hall in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and torched a bus depot in Aubervilliers.

Groups of people threw firecrackers at security forces in several Paris neighborhoods. The police station in the 12th arrondissement was attacked, while some shops were looted on Rivoli Street, near the Louvre Museum and in the Forum des Halles, the largest shopping center in central Paris.

In the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, police tried to disperse violent groups in the city center, regional authorities said.

Around 40,000 police officers were deployed to put down the protests. Police arrested 667 people, the interior minister said; According to the Paris police headquarters, 307 of them were in the Paris region alone.

A woman shows a poster "Justice for Nahel" during a march for 17-year-old Nahel on June 29, 2023 in Nanterre, outside Paris.
A woman displays a ‘Justice for Nahel’ placard during a march for 17-year-old Nahel June 29, 2023 in Nanterre, outside Paris.

According to a spokesman for the state police, around 200 police officers were injured. No information was available about injuries to the rest of the population.

Home Secretary Gerald Darmanin on Friday denounced a night of “rare violence”. His office described the arrests as a sharp increase on previous calls as part of the government’s overall effort to deal with rioters “extremely decisively”.

The government has yet to declare a state of emergency – a measure taken to quell weeks of unrest across France that followed the accidental deaths of two boys fleeing police in 2005.

President Emmanuel Macron prematurely left the EU summit in Brussels, where France plays a key role in European policy-making, to return to Paris on Friday to hold an emergency meeting on security.

The police officer accused of pulling the trigger A preliminary charge of first-degree manslaughter was brought on Tuesday after prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial inquiries led him to the conclusion that “the conditions for the weapon to be used legally were not met”. Preliminary charges mean coroners have strong suspicions of wrongdoing but still need to investigate further before bringing a case to court.

The detained police officer’s lawyer speaks on French television BFMTVHe said the officer was saddened and “devastated”. The officer did what he felt was necessary at the moment, lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard told the news agency.

“He doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people,” Lienard said of the officer, whose name has not been published in accordance with French criminal practice. “He really didn’t want to kill.”

The shooting was caught on video shocked France and sparked long-simmering tensions between the police and young people in housing projects and other disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Nahel’s mother, known as Mounia M., told France 5 TV that she was angry with the officer who killed her only child but not with the police in general. “He saw a small, Arab-looking child, he wanted to take his own life,” she said.

She demanded that the judiciary must be “very decisive”.

“A cop can’t take his gun and shoot our children, take our children’s lives,” she said.

Nahel’s grandmother, whose name was not given, told Algerian television Ennahar TV that her family has roots in Algeria.

Riot police take on protesters on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old driver by police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, June 29, 2023.
Riot police take on protesters on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old driver by police in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, June 29, 2023.

AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard

Algeria’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday that mourning was widespread in the North African country.

Anti-racism activists again complained about the behavior of the police.

“We must go beyond saying that the situation must calm down,” said Dominique Sopo, head of the campaign group SOS Racisme. “The question here is how do we ensure that we have a police force that, when they see black people and Arabs, does not tend to yell at them, use racist language against them and, in some cases, shoot them in the head .” ”

race was on a taboo subject for decades in France, which officially subscribed to a doctrine of color-blind universalism. However, some increasingly vocal groups argue that this consensus hides widespread discrimination and racism.

Lethal use of firearms is less common in France than in the United States, although there were 13 people who failed to comply with traffic stops fatally shot by French police last year. Three other people, including Nahel, have died in similar circumstances this year. The deaths have sparked calls for more accountability in France, which has also sparked protests against racial injustice The killing of George Floyd by the Minnesota Police Department.

In Nanterre on Thursday afternoon, a peaceful march in honor of Nahel followed escalating confrontations, which saw smoke billowing from cars and rubbish bins set on fire.

Tensions rose throughout France as the day progressed. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a police office in the normally quiet Pyrenean town of Pau in south-west France, the national police said. Vehicles were set on fire in Toulouse and a tram train was set on fire in a suburb of Lyon, police said. Some cities, such as Clamart in the south-western suburbs of the French capital and Neuilly-sur-Marne in the eastern suburbs, have imposed night-time curfews as a precaution.

Bus and tram services in the Paris area were closed as a precaution, and many tram lines remained closed during the Friday morning rush hour.

The unrest reached as far as the Belgian capital, Brussels, where clashes related to the shooting in France arrested around a dozen people and brought several fires under control.

Prache, the Nanterre prosecutor, said officers tried to stop Nahel 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 a traffic jam.

Both officers said they drew their guns to stop him from escaping. The officer who fired the shot told Prache he was concerned he and his colleague or someone else might be hit by the car.

Scenes in the French suburbs were reminiscent of 2005, when the deaths of 15-year-old Bouna Traoré and 17-year-old Zyed Benna sparked three weeks of riots that expressed anger and displeasure at neglected housing projects. The boys were electrocuted after hiding from police at a substation in Clichy-sous-Bois.

Corbet and Leicester reported from Paris. Jeffrey Schaeffer and Aurelien Morissard in Nanterre; Raf Casert in Brussels, Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

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