France endures fourth night of violence and looting after police shooting

Rioting erupted across France for a fourth night in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver of North African origin as his family prepared to bury him on Saturday in his hometown of Nanterre.

The interior ministry said 994 arrests were made overnight compared with 875 on Thursday night and suggested that the ferocity of the protests was waning.

Rioters caused considerable damage, with cars and buildings set ablaze, widespread looting in Marseille and around Paris, and dozens of attacks on police stations. 

“We can consider that events were less intense overnight,” Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, told BFMTV news channel early on Saturday morning.

He said the deployment of armoured vehicles, helicopters and 45,000 police officers, as well as the high number of arrests, had caused a “psychological shock” that deterred people from rioting. 

The government said the average age of people arrested on Friday was 17.

The killing on Tuesday of Nahel, whose last name has not been made public, stoked a wave of anger in the Paris suburb where he lived that has spread to cities and towns across France.

It exacerbated tensions between the police and young people in low-income areas that are home to minorities and immigrants, who face racial profiling by police and discrimination in housing and job opportunities, according to official studies.

The unrest poses a big challenge for France’s president Emmanuel Macron who has called for calm while also describing the shooting as “inexplicable and inexcusable”.

His government has been criticised by far-right leader Marine Le Pen for being too lenient on the rioters and soft on crime, while Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the far-left politician, said violence committed by police had to end. 

Prosecutors have filed preliminary charges for voluntary homicide against one of the two officers allegedly involved in the shooting, and placed him in pre-trial detention, a rare move in such cases. 

Public buses and tramways were shut down overnight to prevent them from being targeted and set on fire while some towns set curfews. 

French football captain Kylian Mbappe and the national team tried to persuade the protesters to stop the violence.

“Many of us are from working-class neighbourhoods, we too share this feeling of pain and sadness,” they wrote on Mbappe’s Twitter account. But they criticised the “self-destruction”, adding “it is your property that you are destroying, your neighbourhoods, your cities”.

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