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28 Jun, 2023 23:27

Molotov cocktails thrown as widespread protest grips France

Riots began after a youth was killed by a police officer
Molotov cocktails thrown as widespread protest grips France

More than 150 people have been detained in the Paris suburbs and cities across France as riots sparked by the death of a teenager in a police shooting continued into the early hours of Thursday. 

Protests broke out in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday, but have since spread to other major cities, including Toulouse, Lille, Lyon, and Nice. Rioters bombarded police with fireworks, set garbage containers on fire, and torched several cars. Local journalists reported Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at police vans.

Le Figaro reported that “a few dozen” people launched fireworks at a prison in Fresnes, a southern suburb of Paris, and attempted to break into the building before being driven away by police.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Wednesday evening that 2,000 officers and gendarmes were put on alert in the greater Paris area, 800 more than the night before, according to French media. Police also received an emergency authorization to use surveillance drones in Nanterre.

A total of 77 arrests were made, police said in the early hours of Thursday, as quoted by AFP. More than 30 people were detained in the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, including many in the Hauts-de-Seine department, where Nanterre is based. 

The riots erupted after a 17-year-old, later identified as Nahel M., was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Police said at the time that Nahel had failed to comply with the officer’s demands. The young man’s mother, Mounia, posted a video on TikTok calling for “a revolt” to receive justice for the death of her son. 

President Emmanuel Macron condemned Nahel’s death. “We have a teenager who was killed. It’s inexcusable, inexplicable and I want to express my sympathies and condolences to his family and loved ones,” Macron said during a visit to Marseilles on Wednesday.

He instructed Minister for Cities and Housing Olivier Klein to deliver the government’s condolences to the slain teenager’s family.

On Twitter, Macron urged the public to stay calm and thanked police officers who “are committed to protecting us and serving the republic.”

Opposition leader Marine Le Pen called Macron’s remarks “excessive” and “irresponsible.” It is up to the courts to decide what happened, Le Pen said, arguing that the president should not prejudice the investigation.

The officer who fired the fatal shot has been placed under arrest and charged with intentional homicide. Lawyers for Nahel’s mother have sought a change of venue, arguing that Nanterre prosecutors cannot be impartial because the suspect is one of their police officers.

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