France has been grappling with a wave of violent protests and riots following the police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, which has reignited accusations of racial bias within the French police force. In response to this unrest, the country’s mayors implored both the public and elected officials to hold rallies pushing for a return to order.
This call comes in the wake of violent acts, such as the torching of a mayor’s home with a flaming car, which the mayors’ association has described as “serious unrest, which targets republican symbols with extreme violence.”
Amid the chaos, a firefighter tragically lost his life while trying to extinguish a blaze in the northern part of Paris. However, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin stated there was no immediate link between the firefighter’s death and the rioting, with the ministry noting, “an investigation is underway” to determine the cause of the fire.
The assault on the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses, has sparked national outrage. The mayor stated, “I never would have imagined that my family would be threatened with death,” after attackers drove a burning car into his house, severely injuring his wife. An attempted murder investigation is now in progress.
As France attempts to control the disorder, which poses one of the most significant challenges to President Emmanuel Macron’s administration, authorities have deployed 45,000 police and gendarmes across the country. Nonetheless, the violence persists, with 157 people arrested and three police officers wounded in one night alone.
Meanwhile, Nahel’s grandmother, Nadia, has called for peace, imploring those involved in the riots to “Stop and do not riot… Do not smash windows, attack schools or buses. Stop! It’s the mums who are taking the bus, it’s the mums who walk outside.”
Macron, amid this crisis, has postponed a state visit to Germany and initiated a deep-dive investigation into the causes of the unrest. He will meet parliament heads and mayors from towns affected by the riots. The violence has raised international concerns as France is set to host the Rugby World Cup in the autumn and the Paris Olympic Games in the summer of 2024.
The 38-year-old police officer involved in Nahel’s death has been charged with voluntary homicide and is currently in custody.