July 2, 2023 -PARIS (AP) — Young rioters clashed with police into early Sunday and targeted a mayor’s home with a burning car as France saw a fifth night of unrest sparked by the police killing of a teenager, but overall violence appeared to lessen compared with previous nights.
Police made 719 arrests nationwide by early Sunday after a mass security deployment aimed at quelling France’s worst social upheaval in years.
The crisis posed a new challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership and exposed deep-seated discontent in low-income neighborhoods over discrimination and lack of opportunity.
As night fell Saturday over the French capital, a small crowd gathered on the Champs-Elysees to protest his death and police violence but met hundreds of officers with batons and shields guarding the avenue and its boutiques. In a less chic neighborhood of northern Paris, protesters set off firecrackers and lit barricades on fire as police shot back with tear gas and stun grenades.
A burning car hit the home of the mayor of the Paris suburb of l’Hay-les-Roses. Several schools, police stations, town halls and stores have been targeted by fires or vandalism in recent days but such a personal attack on a mayor’s home is unusual.
Mayor Vincent Jeanbrun said his wife and one of his children were injured in the attack at 1:30 a.m. while the family was sleeping and he was in the town hall monitoring the violence.
Jeanbrun, of the conservative opposition Republicans party, said in a statement the attack represented a new stage of “horror and ignominy” in the unrest, and urged the government to impose a state of emergency.
Regional prosecutor Stephane Hardouin opened an investigation into attempted murder in the attack, telling French television that a preliminary investigation suggests the car was meant to ram the house and set it ablaze. He said a flame accelerant was found in a bottle in the car.
Skirmishes erupted in the Mediterranean city of Marseille but appeared less intense than the night before, according to the Interior Ministry. A bolstered police contingent arrested 55 people there.
Nationwide arrests were lower than the night before. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin attributed that to “the resolute action of security forces.”
More than 3,000 people have been detained overall since Nahel’s death. The mass police deployment has been welcomed by some frightened residents of targeted neighborhoods and shop owners whose stores have been ransacked — but it has further frustrated those who see police behavior as the core of France’s current crisis.
The unrest took a toll on Macron’s diplomatic standing. On Saturday, he postponed what would have been the first state visit to Germany by a French president in 23 years. Macron had been scheduled to fly to Germany on Sunday.
Hundreds of French police and firefighters have been injured in the violence, although authorities haven’t said how many protesters have been hurt. In French Guiana, an overseas territory, a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet.
On Saturday, Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti warned that young people who share calls for violence on Snapchat or other apps could face prosecution. Macron has blamed social media for fueling violence.