Accused officer faces preliminary charge of voluntary homicide
More clashes in France after deadly police shooting
Violent protests and mass arrests continue across France following the police shooting of a teenager during a traffic stop on the outskirts of Paris. One officer has been detained on homicide charges.
France mobilized tens of thousands of police officers 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 to avoid being targeted by rioters.
Protesters in some cities set fires in the streets as the night progressed.
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 honour of the teen identified only by his first name, Nahel.
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 neighbourhoods.
The police officer accused of pulling the trigger 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."
The detained police officer's lawyer, speaking on French TV channel BFM-TV, said the officer was sorry and "devastated." The officer did what he thought was necessary in the moment, attorney Laurent-Franck Lienard told the news outlet.
"He doesn't get up in the morning to kill people," Lienard said of the officer, whose name has not been released.
"He really didn't want to kill. But now he must defend himself, as he's the one who's detained and sleeping in prison."
Officer presence quadrupled
After a morning crisis meeting following violence that injured dozens of police and damaged nearly 100 public buildings, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said the number of officers in the streets would more than quadruple — from 9,000 officers to 40,000. In the Paris region alone, the number of officers deployed was more than doubled 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."
There were 100 arrests nationwide Thursday night, according to a national police spokesperson, as officials reported scattered clashes in cities across the country despite the stepped-up deployments.
The aftermath of rioting in northern France
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin surveys the damage in Mons-en-Baroeul in northern France, following rioting across the country after police shot and killed a teenage boy in a Paris suburb earlier in the week.
In the usually tranquil Pyrenees town of Pau in southwestern France, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a new police office, national police said. Vehicles were set on fire in Toulouse and a tramway train was torched in a suburb of Lyon, police said. Paris police said its officers made 40 arrests Thursday, some on the margins of the largely peaceful memorial march for the teen and others elsewhere.
The interior minister had reported 180 arrests nationwide before Thursday.
Bus and tram services in the Paris area shut down before sunset as a precaution to safeguard transportation workers and passengers.
Nightly curfew in Clamart
The town of Clamart, home to 54,000 people in the French capital's southwest suburbs, said it was taking the extraordinary step of imposing an overnight curfew from Thursday through 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.
Streets of Nanterre, France, set ablaze amid protests
Violent protests resumed for the second night in Nanterre, France, as unrest over the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old at a traffic stop continues to boil over. Protesters aimed fireworks at police, who responded with rounds of tear gas, as firefighters worked to control the blazing cars lining the streets.
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 centre and setting fire to trash containers, including in front of the region's main administrative building, police said. Around 1 a.m. local time, regional officials tweeted that police were trying to disperse violent groups in the city centre. Police said they had made 28 arrests, though they gave no time frame.
The unrest extended even to Brussels, where about a dozen people were detained during scuffles related to the shooting in France. Police spokesperson Ilse Van de Keere said that several fires were brought under control and that at least one car was burned.
The teenager's family and their lawyers haven't said the police shooting was race-related and they didn't release his surname or details about him.
Still, his death inflamed raw nerves in neighbourhoods that have welcomed generations of immigrants from France's former colonies and elsewhere. Their France-born children frequently complain they are subjected to police ID checks and harassment far more frequently than white people or those in more affluent neighbourhoods.
Anti-racism activists renewed their complaints about police behaviour.
"We have to go beyond saying that things need to calm down," said Dominique Sopo, head of the campaign group SOS Racisme.
"The issue here is how do we make it so that we have a police force that when they see Blacks and Arabs, don't tend to shout at them, use racist terms against them and in some cases, shoot them in the head."
Prosecutor says teen was stuck in traffic
Pascal Prache, the Nanterre prosecutor, said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish licence plates in a bus lane. He ran a red light to avoid being stopped but then got stuck in traffic. Both officers involved said they drew their guns to prevent him from fleeing.
The officer who fired a single shot said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car, Prache said. The officers said they felt "threatened" as the car drove off.
He said two magistrates are leading the investigation, as is common in France. Preliminary charges mean investigating judges strongly suspect wrongdoing but need to investigate more before sending the case to trial.
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