France unrest
Police detain young people during the fifth night of protests on July 2, 2023, in the Champs Elysees area, in Paris, France. Image Credit: Reuters

Paris: French authorities deployed reinforcements to flashpoint cities on Saturday, making hundreds of arrests on the fifth night of unrest sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old who was laid to rest earlier in the day.

A total of 322 people had been arrested across France as of 1:30 am (0030 GMT) on Sunday, the interior ministry said, though the level of violence appeared to have declined since rioting first broke out over the death of Nahel M. in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had told reporters earlier that 45,000 members of the security forces would be deployed overnight Saturday to Sunday - the same number as the night before.

But extra forces and equipment were sent to Lyon, Grenoble and Marseille, which had previously seen intense rioting.

Mayor's home attacked

In the greater Paris region, the home of the conservative mayor of L'Hay-les-Roses was ram-raided, and his wife and one of his children were injured as they escaped. The local prosecutor said an investigation into attempted murder had been opened.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Sunday condemned as "particularly shocking" an attack on the home of a mayor of a Paris suburb, urging tough punishments for the perpetrators.

"The situation was much calmer," Borne told reporters in the suburb of L'Hay-les-Roses after a fifth night of urban rioting proved less intense than previous nights. "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".

Fewer incidents

In Paris and its nearby regions, where around 7,000 officers were out in force, 126 people had been arrested as of 1:30 am Sunday.

In Marseille, police dispersed groups of youths Saturday evening at Canebiere, the main avenue running through the centre of the city, AFP journalists said.


By midnight, the authorities in Lyon and Marseille were reporting fewer incidents than the previous night, with 56 and 21 people arrested in the two cities, respectively.

A number of towns have imposed overnight curfews.

The protests over the death of the teen, who was of Algerian origin, have again exposed the severe racial tensions in modern France, increasing scrutiny on the police, who have long been accused of singling out minorities.

The crisis is a hugely unwelcome development for President Emmanuel Macron, who was looking forward to pressing on with his second mandate after seeing off months of protests that erupted in January over raising the pensions age.

In a sign of the seriousness of the crisis, he postponed a state visit to Germany scheduled to begin Sunday.

'Dialogue and reconstruction'

Nahel's funeral ceremony was held on Saturday in Nanterre, where he lived, with hundreds gathering peacefully along with his mother and grandmother.

A ceremony took place in the early afternoon at the mosque in Nanterre, and he was interred in the giant Mont Valerien cemetery in the area.

It finished at 1530 GMT and was marked by "reflection and without incidents", a witness told AFP.

In a rare intervention on a social issue, the French national football team, many of whose top players are of minority background, joined calls for an end to the clashes.

"The time of violence must give way to that of mourning, dialogue and reconstruction," the team said in a statement posted Friday on social media by captain and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

'Young or very young'

In a bid to limit the violence, buses and trams in France have stopped running after 9 pm and the sale of large fireworks and inflammable liquids has been banned.

The southern port city of Marseille has been the scene of clashes and looting from the centre and further north in the long-neglected low-income neighbourhoods that Macron visited at the start of the week.

Authorities there went a step further by halting all urban transport from 6pm, including metros, and banning all protests up until Sunday.

Police reinforcements have been sent to the city, including armoured vehicles and two helicopters.

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

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.

The unrest has had a major impact on cultural events in France, with singer Mylene Farmer forced to cancel stadium concerts and French fashion house Celine cancelling its menswear show in Paris scheduled for this weekend.

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

The UN rights office said 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".

The French foreign ministry dismissed the criticism, saying any suggestion of systemic discrimination in the police force was "totally unfounded".