France Arrests Over 1,300 in Unrest on Eve of Slain Teenager’s Funeral


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The authorities in France have stepped up their efforts to contain the unrest that has broken out this past week over the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old, with officers arresting more than 1,300 protesters overnight, according to the Interior Ministry.

The teenager’s family is holding a funeral for him on Saturday in Nanterre, the Paris suburb where he lived and where a police officer killed him on Tuesday during a traffic stop.

The Interior Ministry described the overnight violence as being of a “lower intensity” than in previous nights, but scenes of unrest and clashes still gripped places like Marseille and Lyon. Since Tuesday, across France hundreds of cars have been set on fire, buildings have been damaged and stores in some cities have been looted.

The police arrested 1,311 people overnight, and the Interior Ministry said that 79 officers had been injured. Over 45,000 officers, along with armored vehicles and specialty police units, were mobilized to clamp down on the riots.

Many of the protesters identify with the teenager, who has been named only as Nahel M. and who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent. Anger over the shooting is rooted in decades-long complaints about police violence and persistent feelings of neglect and racial discrimination in France’s poorer urban suburbs.

The police officer who fired the fatal shot has been detained while being investigated on a charge of voluntary homicide, a rare move that has angered police unions, who said it ignored the presumption of innocence.

They have also denounced the violent protests set off by the shooting, with the largest of the unions referring to those who have taken to the streets as “savage hordes.”

In the southern city of Marseille, the police said they had arrested nearly 90 people overnight as protesters set fires and looted some stores. The city’s mayor, Benoit Payan, condemned the “acts of vandalism” and called on the authorities to send in stronger law enforcement.

Officials say the violence has been driven by young people who are coordinating on social media.

On Friday night, France’s national soccer team — many of whom are also from working-class neighborhoods — called “the brutal death” of Nahel “unacceptable” but urged those participating in the violence to stop.

In a statement shared by Kylian Mbappé, one of the players, the team members said that they shared the feelings of anger and sadness. But, they said, “Violence solves nothing,” adding that those contributing to the destruction were hurting their own neighborhoods, cities and “places of fulfillment.”


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