Wednesday, June 19, 2024

France Protests: Authorities Struggle to quell riots

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Widespread riots rocked France for the fourth consecutive day on Friday after a 17-year-old was shot dead by the police in a Paris suburb on Tuesday.

With pressure from rightwing parties mounting on President Emmanuel Macron to declare a state of emergency, 45,000 police officers were deployed on the streets on Saturday, The Guardian reported

The fatal shooting of a teenager named Nahel of Algerian and Moroccan descent by a police officer during a traffic stop enraged the people who then took to streets, set buildings and vehicles on fire. The purported video of the shooting reignited the debate around racism and police violence in the country.

Nahel to be buried on Saturday

Nahel is due to be buried in a ceremony on Saturday, The Guardian reported. Nahel’s family lawyers urged the media to refrain from reporting the ceremony, saying it was “a day of reflection” for Nahel’s relatives.

More than 1,000 people arrested so far

Meanwhile, 270 people were arrested on Friday night, bringing the total to more than 1,100 since unrest ignited early on Saturday, Reuters quoted Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin as saying. Of them, 80 were arrested on Friday from the southern city of Marseille, France’s second-largest and home to many people of North African descent.

Darmanin added that more than 200 police officers have been injured since the unrest erupted.

protest in france

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire as unrest continues following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop, and against police violence, in Paris, France, July 1, 2023. (REUTERS/Juan Medina)

Macron’s urges social media platforms to remove ‘sensitive’ footage

Amid the unrest, President Macron left a European Union summit in Brussels to attend a cabinet crisis meeting. However, he urged social media platforms to remove “the most sensitive” footage of violence and to reveal the identities of users promoting violence.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin met Meta, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok officials over this.

CNN report said Macron declared a ban on all “large-scale events” in France, including “celebratory events and numerous gatherings”. Parents were urged to keep their children at home.

‘Violence resolves nothing’: Mbappe appeals for peace

International soccer icon Kylian Mbappe urged for an end to the violence. The France soccer team player was quoted as saying by AP, “Many of us are from working-class neighborhoods, we too share this feeling of pain and sadness.”

“Violence resolves nothing. … There are other peaceful and constructive ways to express yourself,” MBappe wrote on Twitter, adding that it is the time for “mourning, dialogue and reconstruction” instead.

UN urges France to address issues of racism, discrimination

The United Nations called on French authorities to “address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement”. In a statement on Friday, UN spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani expressed concerns over Nahel’s death.

Shamdasani noted that an investigation has been launched into the alleged voluntary homicide.

“We also emphasize the importance of peaceful assembly. We call on the authorities to ensure use of force by police to address violent elements in demonstrations always respects the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discrimination, precaution and accountability,” the statement said.

Shamdasani also called for swift investigation into any allegations of disproportionate use of force by people exercising their rights to protest.

France rejects UN remarks

However, dismissing the UN’s remarks, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “France, and its police forces, fight with determination against racism and all forms of discrimination. There can be no doubt about this commitment.” “The use of force by the national police and gendarmerie is governed by the principles of absolute necessity and proportionality, strictly framed and controlled,” the ministry added.

(He) saw an Arab face…wanted to take his life’: Nahel’s mother

Meanwhile, the cop accused of the killing is in preventive custody under formal investigation for voluntary homicide. Nahel’s mother Mounia told a French TV channel that she does not blame the entire police force, but only the officer who took her son’s life. The cop “saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life”, she said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, Nahel had died on the scene due to gunshot injuries. A purported video of the incident showed two police personnel standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a pistol at the driver. “You are going to get a bullet in the head,” a voice could be heard saying. The police officer then appears to pull the trigger aiming at the driver even as the car attempts to speed away.

The conflict has now rekindled memories of three weeks of nationwide riots in 2005 which led erstwhile President Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency after the deaths of two young men electrocuted in a power substation as they hid from police.

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