France riots: Macron convenes crisis meeting
French President Emmanuel Macron has convened his cabinet for a second crisis meeting in two days after a destructive night of nationwide riots protesting the fatal shooting of a teenager by police.
Macron, who has so far ruled out declaring a state of emergency, was due to fly back early from a European summit in Brussels to meet with his cabinet at 1100 GMT on Friday.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called the violence “intolerable and inexcusable” and reaffirmed her support for police and firefighters who were “bravely carrying out their duties”.
Hundreds of police were injured and hundreds of people arrested, authorities said, as rioters clashed with officers in towns and cities across France and buildings and vehicles were torched and stores looted.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who deployed 40,000 officers on Thursday night in a bid to quell a third night of unrest, said on Twitter that police made 667 arrests. Authorities say 249 police were injured nationwide.
Violence hit Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille as well as parts of Paris, including the working class suburb of Nanterre, where 17-year-old Nahel M. – who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent – was shot dead on Tuesday during a traffic stop.
Some western governments had earlier warned their citizens in France to exercise caution.
Americans “should avoid mass gatherings and areas of significant police activity,” the U.S. embassy said in a tweet on Thursday, while UK authorities urged Britons to monitor the media, avoid protests and check advice when travelling.
Transport Minister Clement Beaune told RMC radio he did not rule out shutting down the capital’s public transport network early on Friday.
Paris police said they had made 307 arrests in and around Nanterre and that nine police and fire officers had been injured.
Nahel M.’s death has fuelled longstanding complaints of police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs around France’s major cities.
The policeman who prosecutors said had acknowledged firing a lethal shot at the teenager was on Thursday placed under formal investigation for voluntary homicide – equivalent to being charged under Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions. He is being held in preventive detention.
His lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, said his client had aimed down towards the driver’s leg but was bumped, causing him to shoot towards his chest. “Obviously (the officer) didn’t want to kill the driver,” Lienard said on BFM TV,
The unrest has revived memories of riots in 2005 that convulsed France for three weeks and forced then-president Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency.
That wave of violence erupted in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and spread across the country following the death of two young men who ended up being electrocuted in a power substation as they hid from police.