Tensions on France's streets ease, fewer arrests overnight

By Reuters   July 3, 2023 | 01:12 am PT
Tensions on France's streets ease, fewer arrests overnight
Residents walk past phrases written on walls of buildings at a neighbourhood where Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager, was killed by a French police officer during a traffic stop, in Nanterre, France, July 2, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Nacho Doce
Fewer than 160 people were arrested overnight in connection to riots that have rocked cities across France following the killing of a teenager of North African descent by a police officer, the interior ministry said on Monday.

The relative calm following five nights of heavy riots offered some relief to the government of Emmanuel Macron in its fight to regain control of the situation, just months after widespread protests over an unpopular pension reform and a year out from hosting the Olympics.

The interior ministry said 157 people were arrested overnight, down from over 700 arrests the night before and over 1,300 on Friday night.

Three of the 45,000 police officers deployed overnight were injured, the ministry said, while around 350 buildings and 300 vehicles were damaged, according to provisional figures.

The grandmother of Nahel, the teenager shot dead by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb, said on Sunday she wanted the nationwide rioting triggered by his killing to end.

His death has stoked longstanding complaints of discrimination, police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies - denied by authorities - from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs that ring major French cities.

Since he was shot on Tuesday, rioters have torched cars, looted stores and targeted town halls and other properties - including the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of the Paris suburb of l'Hay-les-Roses, which was attacked while his wife and children were asleep inside on Saturday.

"This is a real nightmare", Jeanbrun told BFM TV on Monday. "We have been going through a state of siege."

Jeanbrun, who is a member of the conservative Les Republicains, said in the interview he regretted the government had not chosen to declare a state of emergency which he said would have allowed municipal police to better protect the town and its town hall which was also attacked by rioters last week.

"I have myself grown up in L'Hay-des-Roses in these large housing blocks", he said. "We were modest, we hadn't have much, but we wanted to overcome it, we had hope that we would make it with hard work."

At this stage, everything indicates the people who attacked his home were youths from the same suburb, he added.

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