Authorities said earlier on Saturday that sporadic violence and looting in several French cities was marked by a fourth straight night of protests after the police fatal shooting of a teenager, but at a much lower level than before.
France deployed 45,000 police, backed by light armored vehicles, while an elite police force and other security forces were deployed across the country to quell the violence sparked by Naher’s death. Naher was killed in a traffic jam on the outskirts of Paris on Tuesday.
Despite the presence of security personnel, looting occurred Friday night in cities including Lyon, Marseille and Grenoble, with often masked thugs looting shops.
Protesters also set fire to cars and trash cans.
But on a visit to Mans-la-Jolly, west of Paris, Interior Minister Gerard Dalmanin said in the early hours of Saturday that the night’s violence was “much less intense,” with 994 arrests across the country, with Marseille and Lyon tensions in local areas.
Dalmanin announced an “exceptional” mobilization of police and gendarmes to avert a fourth night of unrest over Naher’s death. Naher will be buried on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where he lived and was killed.
Lawyers for Nahel’s family asked reporters to stay away, saying it was a “day of reflection” for Nahel’s relatives.
Dozens of police cars were parked not far from the entrance to the Ponte Vecchie district of Nanterre, the center of the unrest.
The French national football team also called for an end to the violence.
Team captain and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe said in a statement posted on social media: “The time for violence must give way to a time for mourning, dialogue and reconstruction.”
Les Bleus said they were “appalled by the tragic death of young Nahel” but demanded that the violence give way to “other peaceful and constructive means of expression”.
The southern port city of Marseille has once again become the scene of clashes and looting in the city center and long-neglected working-class neighborhoods in the north, which President Emmanuel Macron visited earlier this week.
Around 2:00 a.m., police in Marseille said they arrested 88 young people, often masked and “active,” overnight on charges of robbery or attempted robbery.
A major fire “related to the riots” has broken out in a supermarket, according to a police source.
“The scenes of looting and rioting are unacceptable in Marseille,” Mayor Benoit Payan said on Twitter, calling on the state to send in more law enforcement.
Dalmanin announced on Twitter shortly afterwards that “a large number of reinforcements have arrived”.
Grenoble, Saint-Etienne and parts of Lyon also saw looting and clashes between masked protesters and police, while in Angers and Tours in the western region, only minorities confronted police.
The Paris region was not spared either, with firefighters battling a burning car under a strong smell of burning in the northwestern suburb of Colombes, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
In Nanterre, nine people were arrested for carrying oil drums and Molotov cocktails.
In Saint-Denis, an administrative center was affected by fire; in Val-d’Oise, the town hall of Persans-Beaumont and the municipal police station caught fire and were partially destroyed.
Buses and trams stopped running at 9:00pm on Friday after the violence of previous nights, and the sale of large fireworks and flammable liquids was banned.
Prime Minister Elizabeth Bohn also announced the cancellation of major events across the country. Pop singer Merlene Farmer’s two concerts scheduled for Friday and Saturday at the Stade de France have been cancelled.
Macron urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, a third of whom are “young or very young”.
He also condemned the “unacceptable exploitation of teenage deaths” by some quarters and vowed to work with social networks to curb “copycat violence” spread through services such as TikTok and Snapchat.
Macron is trying to balance pressure for a tough response with fears of a stronger backlash.
The unrest has drawn attention abroad as France hosts the Rugby World Cup in the autumn and then the Paris Olympics in summer 2024.
The UK and other European countries have updated travel advice to warn tourists to stay away from areas affected by the unrest.
The French tourism industry has expressed concern over the unrest, with hotels and restaurants facing cancellations.
Thierry Marx, president of the main association of employers in the hotel and catering industry, said: “In all areas affected by destruction and conflict, our hotel members have experienced a wave of cancellations.”
The unrest, sparked by the killing of 17-year-old Naher, has reignited long-standing grievances over policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and ethnically diverse suburbs.
Nights of protests have rocked France since the teenager was shot at point-blank range during a traffic jam on video.
“I don’t blame the police, I only blame one person: the man who took my son’s life,” Naher’s mother Munia told France 5 television in her first media interview since the shooting on Thursday.
The 38-year-old officer, who was detained and charged with manslaughter, “saw an Arab face, a small child and wanted to end his life,” she said.
The UN human rights office said on Friday that the killing of the North African-American teenager was “a moment for the country to get serious about addressing the deep-seated problems of racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement”.
A foreign ministry statement rejected the allegation, saying it was “completely groundless”.