More than 1,300 arrested in France as riots rage for fourth day

Rioting has erupted in cities around France for a fourth night despite an enormous police deployment, with cars and buildings set ablaze, stores looted and more than 1,300 people arrested, as family and friends prepared to bury the 17-year-old whose killing by police unleashed the unrest.

The government suggested the violence was beginning to lessen thanks to tougher security measures, but damage remained widespread and violence also erupted in some French overseas territories, where a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana.
The interior ministry announced 1311 arrests around France by early Saturday.

Some 45,000 police officers backed by light armoured vehicles were deployed on Friday, yet despite the heavy security operation, 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.

Despite repeated government appeals for calm and harsh policing, Friday witnessed daylight violence in several areas.

An Apple store was looted in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where police fired tear gas, and the windows of a fast food outlet were smashed in a Paris-area shopping mall, where officers also repelled people trying to break into a shuttered store, authorities said.The southern port city of Marseille experienced its second night of upheaval. Before nightfall, young people hurled projectiles, set fires and looted shops, police said, including a gun shop where looters made off with weapons, and a man was later arrested with a hunting rifle.Marseille Mayor Benoit Payan called for reinforcements of French soldiers saying the “scenes of looting and violence are unacceptable”.

While the situation appeared calmer in Paris, authorities in the city of Lyon reported rioters again setting fires and pelting police in the suburbs. In the city centre, police made 31 arrests to stop the attempted looting of shops after an unauthorised protest against police violence that drew about 1,300 people on Friday evening.

In French Guiana, a 54-year-old was killed by a stray bullet on Thursday night when rioters fired at police in the capital, Cayenne, authorities said.

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 of 17-year-old Nahel M 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.French President Emmanuel 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. Macron urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, one-third of whom were “young or very young”, he said.

And 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.

Nahel is due to be buried in a ceremony on Saturday, according to the mayor of Nanterre – the suburb of Paris where he lived and was killed.

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

“Nahel M’s funeral takes place later on Saturday. 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.

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”.

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