Attack on mayor’s house shocks France despite ‘calmer’ night

A commemoration march was held for Nahel M. who was shot dead by a policeman.

  • The home of A mayor of a Paris suburb was attacked as riots continued.
  • The violent unrest follows the fatal shooting of a teen who did not stop for a traffic check.
  • Around 45 000 police and gendarmes, as well as helicopters and armoured vehicles have been deployed to try to keep the peace.

French politicians expressed horror on Sunday after the home of the mayor of a Paris suburb was attacked in a new night of rioting over the killing of a teen by police, even if the violence nationwide was less intense than previous days.

The government of President Emmanuel Macron has been battling five consecutive nights of violent protests since 17-year-old Nahel M. was shot dead in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday by a police officer during a traffic check.

The killing of Nahel M, who was of Algerian origin, has revived longstanding accusations of institutional racism within the French police who rights groups say single out minorities during controls.

Seeking to quell what has become one of the biggest challenges to Macron of his presidency, the interior ministry has for the last two nights deployed 45 000 police and gendarmes nationwide, as well as helicopters and armoured vehicles.

READ |¬†Macron says police killing of teenager ‘inexcusable’ after Paris suburb riots

The interior ministry said 719 people were arrested overnight, around half the figure from the previous night with intense clashes still reported in several places, including the southern city of Marseille, but calmer elsewhere.

Attention focused on the attack on the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the right-wing mayor of L’Ha-les-Roses outside Paris which saw a burning car rammed by rioters into the entrance of his home with the aim of it setting fire to the building, prosecutors said.

The mayor’s wife and children, aged 5 and 7, were at home, although the mayor himself was at the town hall to deal with the riots. The wife was “badly injured” sustaining a broken leg, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors have opened an attempted murder investigation. “Last night the horror and disgrace reached a new level,” the mayor said in a statement.

‘Utmost severity’

“The situation was much calmer” overall Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told reporters as she visited L’Hay-les-Roses.

“But an act of the kind we saw this morning here is particularly shocking. We will let no violence get by” unpunished, she said, urging that the perpetrators be sanctioned with the “utmost severity”.

Some 7 000 police were deployed in Paris and its suburbs alone, including along tourist hotspot the Champs Elysees avenue in central Paris following calls on social media to take the rioting to the heart of the capital.

The massive police presence helped keep the violence in check, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

READ | ‘Calmer night’: 45 000 security officers make 100s of arrests, bring France protests under control

“A calmer night thanks to the resolute action of the security forces,” he tweeted early Sunday.

But Paris police chief Laurent Nunez cautioned on BFM TV: “No-one is declaring victory.”

In Marseille, which has seen intense clashes and looting, police dispersed groups of youths Saturday evening at Canebiere, the main avenue running through the centre of the city, AFP journalists said.

“They came specifically to do damage, loot and leave,” said Youcef Bettahar, a shopkeeper at the Merlan shopping mall in Marseille. “We’re really disgusted by what’s happening.”

‘New crisis meeting’

The protests present a fresh crisis for Macron who had been hoping to press on with his second mandate after seeing off months of protests that erupted in January over raising the retirement age.

He postponed a state visit to Germany scheduled to begin Sunday, in a sign of the gravity of the situation in France.

Macron will head a crisis meeting Sunday with members of his government, according to the Elysee.

In a bid to limit the ongoing violence, buses and trams in France have stopped running after 9:00 pm and the sale of large fireworks and inflammable liquids has been banned. Marseille has stopped all urban transport from 6:00pm.

Macron has urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters, one-third of whom were “young or very young”.

WATCH | Policeman charged in French teen’s killing as outrage builds

Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti said Saturday that 30 percent of those arrested were minors, while Darmanin said the average age of those arrested was just 17.

The unrest has raised concerns abroad, with France hosting the Rugby World Cup in the autumn and the Paris Olympic Games in the summer of 2024.

Britain and other European countries updated their travel advice to warn tourists to stay away from areas affected by the rioting.

China’s consulate in Marseille similarly warned its citizens to “be vigilant and exercise caution” after state-run media reported the pelting with stones of a bus carrying Chinese tourists in the southern city.

Culture and entertainment have been disrupted, with singer Mylene Farmer calling off stadium concerts and French fashion house Celine cancelling its Paris menswear show.

A 38-year-old policeman has been charged with voluntary homicide over Nahel’s death and has been remanded in custody.

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