France riots subsiding as teen victim’s grandmother calls for peace

WEB DESK: The recent wave of riots across France, sparked by the police shooting of a teenager, appears to be subsiding, with fewer than 160 arrests made overnight, according to the Interior Ministry. This comes as a relief to President Emmanuel Macron’s government, which has been grappling with the unrest just months after widespread protests over an unpopular pension reform and a year ahead of hosting the Olympic Summer Games.

The riots, which have seen cars torched, stores looted, and public buildings including police stations and town halls targeted, began after the fatal shooting of a teenager of Algerian descent in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. The teenager, known as Nahel, was killed during a traffic stop, triggering nationwide unrest and leading to over 3,354 arrests since Tuesday.

In her plea, grandmother of Nahel, identified as Nadia, has called for an end to the rioting. “I’m telling them to stop,” she told BFM TV. She expressed her family’s desire for justice, which for them means the sentencing and imprisonment of the police officer who killed Nahel. However, she made it clear that the violence and destruction caused by the rioters were not the answer.

The unrest has raised questions about systemic racism and discrimination against people from former French colonies living in low-income neighbourhoods with even the United Nations pointing out the “deep rooted racism” in French police. These issues have been longstanding complaints in France, with Nahel’s death being a trigger in them coming to the forefront.

The riots have also posed a significant challenge to France’s image, especially with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on the horizon. Some nations, including China, have warned their citizens to be vigilant due to the unrest. The situation could potentially impact the peak summer tourism season if the violence were to spread to prominent attractions.

As the situation appears to be calming down, the spectre of potential renewed violence still hangs over France. If relations between the authorities and housing estates such as Nahel’s remain unchanged, France’s streets could easily ignite again, as they have done many times in the past.

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