The latest riots have cast a shadow over France’s much-loved Bastille Day, which marks the start of the French Revolution, and fireworks displays have been canceled across the country, angering some conservatives.
The sale of fireworks to security forces was banned in late June after the police shooting and death of a teenager during a traffic jam sparked riots, sparking outrage over racism and police brutality.
France’s worst urban violence in nearly two decades has rocked the country for a week, with thousands of cars burned, public property destroyed and more than 3,700 rioters, many of them minors, arrested.
Nanterre, the western Paris suburb where 17-year-old Nahel M. was killed by police, was one of many cities to cancel their annual Bastille Day fireworks display over fears of further unrest one.
David Lisnard, president of the Association of French Mayors (AMF), told France International Broadcasting Corporation on Wednesday: “Because of the hooligans, we cannot celebrate Bastille Day. I believe things are much worse than people think.”
Lisnard, a member of the opposition conservative Republican Party (LR), said the flight cancellations were “a sign of great unrest in French society”.
French President Emmanuel Macron will join ally India’s President Narendra Modi in celebrating Bastille Day, which marks the 1789 fall of the Bastille Prison, which is seen as To ignite the fuse of the French Revolution.
The two leaders also planned to watch Paris’s main fireworks display from the Eiffel Tower, which has been under maintenance, after nightfall on Friday.
“Need a calm summer”
Interior Minister Gerald Dalmanin said on Wednesday that a “special” 45,000 police officers would be deployed on the night of July 13-14, the same number as at the height of the unrest.
“We are trying to prevent … these violence from happening again by taking preventive measures and by increasing the number of police officers on the streets,” Dammanin told reporters.
He added that police would have “special equipment and organization” to deal with urban violence and be supported by specialized troops, helicopters, drones and armored vehicles, while 34,000 firefighters would be on duty.
Dammanin also said on Wednesday that a march against police violence scheduled for Saturday would not be authorized.
That also applies to “any demonstrations that are directly linked to the riots” before Saturday, he said.
In recent days, police have seized more than 150,000 heavy fireworks similar to those fired at police and buildings during the riots, many of them imported from EU countries such as Spain and Poland, Dalmanin said.
The move to ban the sale of fireworks over the weekend was challenged by businesses selling them, who asked the State Department, the court that handles complaints from citizens against authorities, to overturn the decision. A ruling is due on Thursday.
Meanwhile, buses and trams will stop running at 10:00pm on both nights, but Metro lines and suburban trains will continue running until late at night, he added.
Macron’s office said on Wednesday he would not deliver a televised address as planned on July 14, when he wanted to sum up the achievements of the 100-day reset following the passage of the controversial pension reform.
“If violence breaks out again this summer, the impact will be very negative … he needs a calm summer to resume reforms,” political scientist Bruno Coutres told AFP over the weekend.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally and Macron’s challenger in two presidential elections, slammed the decision of some towns to cancel July 14 celebrations.
“Can you believe that in France, a great democracy, we are abandoning Bastille Day because of the fear of potential violence or riots for some?” She added that the move “recognizes a complete loss of faith in the country”.
Speaking in the small town of Beauvais, north of Paris, she criticized the cost of rebuilding burned public buildings and suggested rioters pay for the damage even if it takes “the rest of their lives”.
Commenting on plans to fine families of underage rioters on Sunday, Prime Minister Elizabeth Bohn said the government would “improve the law…” if the existing legal framework was not adequate.
Meanwhile, 12 people have been arrested on suspicion of attacking the mayor’s residence near Paris during riots, when a car plowed into it and set it on fire, prosecutors said on Wednesday.