Rioters clashed with police Saturday night on the fifth day of unrest after the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy in a Paris suburb, while a mayor said he was the victim of an assassination attempt by protesters.
Police had arrested 719 people nationwide by early Sunday after a deployment of 45,000 officers and “gendarmes” — the French equivalent of the national guard — to control crowds in the quickly unfolding crisis, the Interior Ministry said.
Some 45 police officers and gendarmes were injured overnight, but “their resolute action, coordinated by the prefects, ensured a calmer night,” the ministry said.
More than 1,300 people were arrested Friday, suggesting the protests are dying down.
But the mayor of the Paris suburb of L’Haÿ-les-Roses said that a burning car hit his home, injuring his wife and one of their children, in an attack he described as an “assassination attempt.”
“At 1:30 a.m., while I was at the town hall as I had been for the past 3 nights, individuals rammed a car into my home before setting it on fire to burn down my house, where my wife and two young children were sleeping,” Mayor Vincent Jeanbrun tweeted early Sunday.
“My wife and one of my children were injured when they tried to protect themselves and escape the assailants. It was an unspeakable, cowardly assassination attempt,” he said.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin echoed the description of the event as an attempted assassination Sunday morning and said on Twitter that “major judicial police resources” had been mobilized for an investigation.
On Monday, mayors and people citizens throughout France will stand in squares outside their town halls, which will sound sirens, in solidarity with Jeanbrun, David Lisnard, the president of the French association of mayors, announced Sunday on the television channel TF1.
Police stayed away from the funeral of 17-year-old Nahel in Nanterre on Saturday. He was buried in a hilltop ceremony in the Paris suburb, where hundreds of people lined the road to pay tribute as his white casket was carried from a mosque to the burial ground, The Associated Press reported.
Nahel, identified only by his first name, was killed by a single shot from a police officer during a traffic stop Tuesday morning.
The legal team representing his family hasn’t said whether it believes race was a factor in the shooting, which has stirred long-simmering tensions between French authorities and young people living in disadvantaged, multicultural neighborhoods.
The teenager’s grandmother pleaded with rioters Sunday to stop as the nation faced a sixth straight night of unrest. The woman, identified only as Nadia, said in a telephone interview with the French news broadcaster BFM TV: “Don’t break windows, buses ... schools. We want to calm things down.”
She said she was angry at the officer who killed her grandson but not at the police in general, and she expressed faith in the justice system as France faces its worst social upheaval in years.
Two helicopters patrolled the skies of the southern port city of Marseille on Saturday night, and gendarmes went equipped with an armored vehicle to support local security forces, the Bouches-du-Rhône police force said in a series of Twitter updates Sunday morning. It added that 71 people had been arrested overnight.
Three commercial centers in the north of Marseille were looted, though security forces were able to disperse crowds. Businesses spent the day boarding up, mass gatherings were prohibited overnight, and public transportation services shut down by 6 p.m., according to social media updates from the city of Marseille and local police.
The protests are fueling a diplomatic crisis for President Emmanuel Macron as Paris gears up to host the summer Olympics in 2024. The facade of the aquatics training center was damaged in protests Thursday, Reuters reported, and buses parked near the construction site were set on fire.
On Friday, Macron decided to postpone a state visit to Germany — the first by a French president in 23 years — the German presidency said in a statement on its website.
A spokesperson said Saturday on Twitter that the Iranian Foreign Affairs Ministry had asked the French government and police to “take into account the demands of the protesters while exercising restraint and avoiding violence.”
Some have called on Macron to declare a state of emergency, including the far-right National Rally Party and its parliamentary leader, Marine Le Pen, who said a state of emergency should be declared “without further delay.”
In 2005, then-President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency after nine days of intense riots following the deaths of two teenagers by electrocution as they hid from a police chase in an electricity substation. Two more weeks of clashes followed in their home suburb, Clichy-sous-Bois, on the outskirts of Paris and across the country in the worst civil unrest in recent French history.
CORRECTION (July 2, 2023, 6:30 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the first name of France’s president in 2005. He was Jacques Chirac, not Nicolas.