France’s Macron cancels trip over riots as family buries teenager

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Emmanuel Macron has postponed a state visit to Germany after a fourth night of rioting ahead of the funeral of Nahel M.

French President Emmanuel Macron has postponed a trip to Germany due to begin on Sunday after a fourth night of rioting in cities across France, as family and friends prepared to bury the teenager whose killing by police unleashed the unrest.

Several hundred people lined up on Sunday to enter Nanterre’s grand mosque for the burial of Nahel M, a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent who was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop on Tuesday in the Paris suburb.

Violent clashes continued on Friday night, despite the deployment of some 45,000 police officers backed by light armoured vehicles.

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.

France’s interior ministry said on Twitter that 1,311 people had been arrested overnight, compared with 875 the previous night, although it added the violence was “lower in intensity”.

Violence also erupted in some French overseas territories, where a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana.

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 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.

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. He 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.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called for an end to the protests as the policeman had not been left unpunished.

“On the same day he was put in custody, under formal investigation, and he is today – unfortunately for him – in jail,” Darmanin told French broadcaster TF1.

“Does this justify the unjustifiable? No. So we will stop this mess, we will respect the judicial process and we will learn the political, social and legal lessons maybe after.”

France’s football start and World Cup Golden Boot winner Kylian Mbappe wrote on Twitter that while rage was understandable, the “time of violence must stop and give way to mourning, dialogue and reconstruction.”

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.

Nahel’s mother, Mounia, told France 5 television: “I don’t blame the police, I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son.”

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”.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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