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France will deploy 40,000 officers to crack down on riots after deadly police shooting

France’s government is preparing to crack down on rioters after two nights of violence in Paris following the deadly police shooting of a 17-year-old. 

The government said it will deploy 40,000 police officers and enforce a no-tolerance policy for vandalism and looting in neighborhoods where buildings and vehicles were torched.

Bus and rail services will close at 9 p.m. local time to protect transportation workers and passengers, a decision projected to impact thousands of travelers in the French capital and its suburbs.

“Our transports are not targets for thugs and vandals!” Valerie Pecresse, head of the Paris region, tweeted.


Rioters stand in front of burning vehicles during anti-police protests in France

Rioters clash with police forces as cars burn in Nanterre, outside Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron has described the killing of a 17-year-old delivery driver by police at a traffic stop “inexcusable,” and he called for a thorough investigation. The death in the Paris suburb of Nanterre prompted scattered violence overnight.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The violence consuming France has injured scores of police officers and damaged nearly 100 public buildings. Ministers met Thursday and determined to more than quadruple the police presence from 9,000 officers to 40,000. 

“The professionals of disorder must go home,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Thursday. “The state’s response will be extremely firm.” 

The police officer who fired the fatal shot in the Paris suburb of Nanterre will be investigated for voluntary homicide after an initial investigation led local prosecutor Pascal Prache to conclude that “the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.”

The killing of the teen, identified only by his first name, Nahel, came during a traffic stop Tuesday. The incident captured on video shocked the country and stirred up long-simmering tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other poorer neighborhoods.


A firefighter looks on as vehicles burn following riots in Nanterre, west of Paris

A firefighter looks on as vehicles burn following riots in Nanterre, west of Paris, on June 28, 2023, a day after a 17-year-old boy was shot in the chest by police at point-blank range in this western suburb of Paris. Violent protests broke out in France in the early hours of June 29, 2023, as anger grew over the police killing of a teenager, with security forces arresting 150 people in the chaos that saw balaclava-clad protesters burning cars and setting off fireworks. (ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP via Getty Images)

An increased police presence in Nanterre Wednesday night was met by rioters who shot fireworks and threw stones at the officers. Police responded with volleys of tear gas. 

The violence has spread to other towns since Tuesday, with rioters setting fire to schools, police stations, town halls and other public buildings. Public properties were damaged from Toulouse in the south to Lille in the north — with most of the damage concentrated in Paris suburbs, authorities said. 

French police fire tear gas back at protesters who are launching fireworks at them in Nanterre, outside of Paris

Police forces clash with youths in Nanterre, outside Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2023. Rioters shot fireworks at the police, and officers responded with tear gas.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Fire damaged the town hall in the Paris suburb of L’Ile-Saint-Denis, near the country’s national stadium and the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Olympics. 

Darmanin said that 170 officers had been injured in the unrest but none had sustained life-threatening injuries. At least 90 public buildings were vandalized. 

Officials have not said how many civilians were hurt by the violence. 


A vehicle is consumed by flame during riots in Nanterre, outside of Paris

Police forces walk past burning cars in Nanterre, outside Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2023.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Prache, the prosecutor handling the shooting case, said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish license plates in a bus lane.

The shooting happened after Nahel ran a red light allegedly to avoid being stopped. The officers involved said they drew their weapons to prevent him from fleeing. 

The officer who pulled the trigger said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by Nahel’s car, according to Prache. The officers said they felt “threatened” as Nahel sped away.

Prache asked a magistrate to hold the officer in custody. 


French rioters and police are hidden in shadow as a fire burns in the background during riots in Nanterre

Rioters set fire to nearly 100 public buildings in Paris and surrounding towns and suburbs.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Two magistrates have been appointed to lead the investigation, Prache said. In France, magistrates often lead investigations, unlike in the U.S. and British systems. 

French activists have demanded an end to what they call systemic police abuse of those living in minority or poor neighborhoods. Government officials have condemned the killing and distanced themselves from the police officer’s actions.  

Viral video of the shooting — which sparked the riots — show two police officers leaning into the dirver-side window of a yellow car before the vehicle pulls away as one officer fires into the window. The videos show the car later crashed into a post nearby, the Associated Press reported. 

Fireworks are shot at French police during a riot in Nanterre, outside of Paris

Macron has called the riots “totally unjustifiable” and pledged to restore order.  (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The driver was reported dead at the scene. 

French President Emmanuel Macron has called the rioting in response to Nahel’s death “totally unjustifiable.” He has asked for “remembrance and respect” for Nahel while urging that justice be allowed to run its course. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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