France’s Macron cancels trip over riots as family buries teenager

Emmanuel Macron has postponed a state visit to Germany after a fourth night of rioting before the funeral of Nahel M.

French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed a trip to Germany due to begin on Sunday after a fourth night of rioting in cities across France, as family and friends buried the teenager whose killing by police unleashed the unrest.

The family of Nahel M, a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent who was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop on Tuesday, held a private funeral at a mosque in Nanterre, a Paris suburb.

Violent clashes continued on Friday night, despite the deployment of some 45,000 police officers backed by light armoured vehicles, and a similar number of police will again be on the street on Saturday night, according to the interior ministry.

The ministry said on Twitter that 1,311 people had been arrested overnight, compared with 875 the previous night, although it added the violence was “lower in intensity”.

Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti said 30 percent of detainees were under 18.

Looting and rioting took place in the cities of Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble with bands of youths pillaging shops, setting fires and pelting officers with projectiles.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said more than 700 shops supermarkets, restaurants and bank branches had been “ransacked, looted and sometimes even burnt to the ground since Tuesday”.

Rioters in Marseille, France’s second-largest city, looted a gun store and stole hunting rifles but no ammunition, police said.

Marseille’s Mayor Benoit Payan called on the government to send extra troops to tackle “pillaging and violence” after three police officers were slightly wounded on Saturday.

Events including two concerts at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris were cancelled, while LVMH-owned fashion house Celine cancelled its 2024 menswear show on Sunday, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Tour de France organisers said they were ready to adapt to any situation when the cycle race enters the country on Monday from Spain.

Violence also erupted in some French overseas territories, where a 54-year-old died late Thursday after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana.

On the small Indian Ocean island of Reunion, protesters set rubbish bins ablaze, threw projectiles at police, and damaged cars and buildings, officials said. Some 150 police officers were deployed there on Friday night.

‘Copycat violence’: Macron

The fatal shooting was captured on video, shocking France and stirring up long-simmering tensions between police, young people in the country’s housing projects and disadvantaged neighbourhoods, and racism in French society.

Macron, after rushing back from a European Union summit to chair a crisis meeting on Friday, denounced the “unacceptable exploitation of a death of an adolescent” in some quarters, but he did not declare a state of emergency. He urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, one-third of whom were “young or very young”, he said.

He promised to work with social media platforms to curb “copycat violence” spread via services such as TikTok and Snapchat.

The government would establish procedures for “the removal of the most sensitive content”, he said, adding that he expected “a spirit of responsibility” from tech companies.

Snapchat spokesperson Rachel Racusen said the company had increased its moderation since Tuesday to detect and act on content related to the rioting.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called for an end to the protests as the policeman had not been left unpunished.

“On the same day he was put in custody, under formal investigation, and he is today – unfortunately for him – in jail,” Darmanin told French broadcaster TF1.

“Does this justify the unjustifiable? No. So we will stop this mess, we will respect the judicial process and we will learn the political, social and legal lessons maybe after.”

Kylian Mbappe, the captain of France’s national football team, wrote on Twitter that while rage was understandable, the “time of violence must stop and give way to mourning, dialogue and reconstruction.”

Paul Brennan, reporting for Al Jazeera from Nanterre, said the funeral could provide an opportunity to de-escalate tensions, but that was not assured.

“An opportunity perhaps to press pause on the violence of the past few nights. But, equally, it could provide just another spark for yet more unrest,” he said.

The family’s lawyers have asked journalists to stay away, saying it was “a day of reflection” for Nahel’s relatives.

Nahel’s mother, Mounia, told France 5 television: “I don’t blame the police, I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son.”

She said the 38-year-old police officer responsible for killing her son, and who was arrested and charged with voluntary manslaughter on Thursday, “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”.

The United Nations human rights office said on Friday that the killing of the teen of North African descent was “a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement”.

A French foreign ministry statement dismissed that charge as “totally unfounded”.

The unrest has revived memories of nationwide riots in 2005 that forced then-President Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency, after the death of two young men electrocuted in a power substation as they hid from police.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies