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France riots: Shot teenager’s grandmother says violence must stop

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THE grandmother of the teenager shot dead by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb said she wanted the nationwide rioting triggered by his killing to end, after a fifth night of unrest.

She said the rioters were using 17-year-old Nahel’s death last Tuesday as an excuse to cause havoc and that the family wanted calm.

“I’m telling them [the rioters] to stop,” the grandmother, identified as Nadia by French media, told BFM TV.

“Nahel is dead. My daughter is lost … she doesn’t have a life anymore.”

Asked about a crowdfunding campaign that had received pledges of more than 670,000 euros ($731,000) for the police officer charged with voluntary homicide over the shooting, Nadia said: “My heart aches.”

The latest riots, following Saturday’s funeral for Nahel in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, were less intense than the previous night, the government said. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 45,000 police would again be deployed on Sunday night.

Since Nahel was shot, rioters have torched cars and looted stores, but also targeted state institutions – town halls and police stations. The home of the mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses near Paris was attacked while his wife and children were asleep inside.

President Emmanuel Macron postponed a state visit to Germany that was due to begin on Sunday to handle the worst crisis for his leadership since the “Yellow Vest” protests gripped much of France in late 2018.

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In mid-April, Macron gave himself 100 days to bring reconciliation and unity to a divided country after rolling strikes and sometimes-violent protests over his raising of the retirement age, which he had promised in his election campaign.

Instead, Nahel’s death has fed longstanding complaints of discrimination, police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies – denied by authorities – from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs that ring major French cities.

The officer involved has acknowledged firing a lethal shot, the state prosecutor says, telling investigators he wanted to prevent a dangerous police chase. His lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard has said he did not intend to kill the teenager.

LEVEL OF ARRESTS AND DAMAGE DECLINES

The interior ministry said 719 people had been arrested on Saturday night, compared to 1,311 the previous night and 875 on Thursday night.

Paris’ police chief said it was too early to say the unrest had been quelled. “There was evidently less damage but we will remain mobilised in the coming days. We are very focused, nobody is claiming victory,” Laurent Nunez said.

The biggest overnight flashpoint was Marseille, where police fired teargas and fought street battles with youths around the city centre late into the night. There was also unrest in Paris, in the Riviera city of Nice and in Strasbourg in the east.

The unrest delivers a blow to France’s image a year before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

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China, along with some Western nations, has warned its citizens to be vigilant due to the unrest, which could pose a significant challenge for France in the peak summer tourism season if it were to envelop prominent attractions.

China’s consulate lodged a formal complaint after a bus carrying a Chinese tour group had its windows smashed in on Thursday, leading to minor injuries, China’s Consular Affairs Office said.

In Paris, shop facades on the popular Avenue des Champs-Elysees were boarded up overnight, and there were sporadic clashes elsewhere. Police said six public buildings were damaged and five officers were wounded.

In the Paris region, the home of the conservative mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses, Vincent Jeanbrun, was rammed by a vehicle, and his wife and children were attacked with fireworks as they escaped.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne visited the area on Sunday with the conservative Paris region president, Valerie Pecresse, who blamed the violence on small, well-trained groups. “The Republic will not yield, and we will fight back,” she said.

As the mayor was greeted by well-wishers, a resident who gave her name as Marie-Christine said: “They’re smashing things up just to smash things up, they want to spread terror, attack elected officials and try to put the Republic in danger.”

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Saturday that 10 malls had been looted in the wave of unrest, and more than 200 supermarkets had also been attacked, along with scores of tobacconists, banks, fashion stores, and fast-food outlets.

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The far-right Rassemblement National Party of Marine Le Pen, Macron’s main challenger in last year’s presidential vote, has doubled down in its portrayal of Macron as weak on immigration.

By ENOIT VAN OVERSTRAETEN and ELIZABETH PINEAU

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