June 29, 2023 -NANTERRE, France (AP) — France sent tens of thousands of police officers into the streets on Thursday in an effort to head off widespread urban rioting following the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old that shocked the nation, with commuters rushing home before transport services closed early for safety reasons.
The police officer accused of pulling the trigger on Tuesday was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude “the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.”
Despite government appeals for calm and vows that order would be restored, smoke billowed from cars and garbage set ablaze in the Paris suburb of Nanterre following a peaceful afternoon march in honor of the teen identified only by his first name, Nahel.
After a morning crisis meeting following violence that injured scores of police and damaged nearly 100 public buildings, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the number of officers in the streets would more than quadruple, from 9,000 to 40,000. In the Paris region alone, the number of officers deployed would more than double to 5,000.
“The professionals of disorder must go home,” Darmanin said. While there’s no need yet to declare a state of emergency — a measure taken to quell weeks of rioting in 2005 — he added: “The state’s response will be extremely firm.” He said officers made more than 180 arrests before Thursday and that there would “doubtless” be more.
Bus and tram services in the Paris area were shutting down before sunset as a precaution to safeguard transportation workers and passengers.
The town of Clamart, home to 54,000 people in the French capital’s southwest suburbs, said it was taking the extraordinary step of putting an overnight curfew in place from Thursday through to Monday, citing “the risk of new public order disturbances.” The mayor of Neuilly-sur-Marne announced a similar curfew in that town in the eastern suburbs of Paris.
Marseille, the giant port city in the south of France saw the beginnings of unrest Thursday evening, with several hundred young people roaming the city center and setting fire to trash containers, including in front of the region’s main administrative building, police said. Officers dispersed most of the about 400 people who had gathered, police said. Police arrested three people and one officer was injured.
The unrest extended even to Brussels, where about a dozen people were detained during scuffles related to the shooting in France. Police spokeswoman Ilse Van de Keere said several fires were brought under control, and that at least one car was burned.
The shooting captured on video shocked the country and stirred up long-simmering tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other disadvantaged neighborhoods.