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French police arrest hundreds during protests
03:29 - Source: CNN
France has been rocked by a wave of protests after a 17-year-old youth was shot by police near Paris on Tuesday, sparking a ban on demonstrations in some cities, travel warnings and reigniting a debate on over-policing in marginalized communities.
Scenes emerged of people setting fires to vehicles and climbing onto buildings with smashed windows, while riot police officers fiercely clashed with demonstrators.
The unrest prompted a crisis response from French President Emmanuel Macron, who held an emergency meeting with ministers as he attempts to bridge divisions and unite the country in his second term.
Here’s what we know.
What sparked the protests?
A police officer shot dead the teenager, Nahel, who was of Algerian heritage, during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre earlier this week.
Footage of the incident captured by a passerby showed two officers standing on the driver’s side of the car, one of whom discharged his gun at the driver despite not appearing to face any immediate threat.
The officer said he fired his gun because he was scared the boy would run someone over with the car, Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache said.
Prache said that it is believed the officer acted illegally in using his weapon. He is currently facing a formal investigation for voluntary homicide and has been placed in preliminary detention.
French riot police officers walk next to an upside down car during the fifth day of protests, in Paris on Sunday, July 2.
A police officer stands in front of the damaged home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of L'Haÿ-les-Roses, after rioters rammed a vehicle into the building overnight Sunday. Jeanbrun said his wife and one of his children were injured.
Police stop a group of young people in the Champs-Élysées area in Paris on July 2.
Demonstrators run as French police officers shoot tear gas in Paris on July 2.
A French firefighter works to extinguish a burning car in Tourcoing, France, on July 2.
Police officers patrol a demonstration in Marseille, France, on Saturday, July 1.
A passerby looks at the scorched remains of a car set on fire during protests on July 1, in Colombes, France.
An employee boards up shop windows on July 1, following a night of protests in Strasbourg, France.
Firefighters use a water hose on a burnt bus in Nanterre, France, on July 1.
Protesters clash with police in Nanterre, France, on Friday, June 30.
Officers stand guard during riots in Lille, France, on June 30.
People walk past a vandalized shop in Lille, France, on June 30.
Burnt buses can be seen through the gates at the Fort d'Aubervilliers bus terminal in Aubervilliers, France, on June 30.
Protesters clash with police in Nanterre on June 30.
Fireworks explode as policemen stand by during protests in Roubaix on June 30.
People look at burning tires blocking a street in Bordeaux, France, on Thursday, June 29.
Demonstrators clash with police in Paris on June 29.
Cars burn in Nanterre on June 29.
Police face protesters at the end of a march in Paris on June 29.
People demonstrate in Nanterre on June 29.
Firefighters try to extinguish burning cars in Paris on June 29.
Mounia, Nahel's mother, gestures as she stands on a truck during a march in Nanterre on June 29.
Firefighters extinguish burning vehicles during clashes in Nanterre on Wednesday, June 28.
In pictures: Protests erupt across France after police shooting
What’s happened since?
Protesters have been carrying signs that read “the police kill” and hundreds of government buildings have been damaged as Nahel’s death taps into anger over racial bias in the country.
Successive nights of violence across France and its overseas territories have in turn prompted French officials to launch a crackdown, with more than 40,000 police officers mobilized to patrol cities across the country. Since Tuesday, more than 2,000 people have been detained and more than 500 police officers and gendarmes have been injured, according to CNN calculations based on numbers released by the Interior Ministry.
In Paris alone, 5,000 security personnel were deployed. Officers were given powers to quell riots, make arrests, and “restore republican order,” French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said.
Overseas French territories have also witnessed violent protests. A man was killed by a “stray bullet” in Cayenne, capital of French Guiana, during riots on Thursday.
Police have also detained at least 28 people in riots in Réunion, a French territory in the Indian Ocean, according to authorities there.
What does this mean for Macron?
Macron gave himself 100 days to heal the country and reset his presidency after weeks of protests against unpopular pension reforms earlier this year. But hopes for a reset are now likely to be hampered by the widespread protests. It has not gone unnoticed that Macron attended an Elton John concert on Wednesday as cars burned and buildings were defaced across the country.
The French government is working to avoid a repeat of 2005, when the deaths of two teenage boys hiding from police set off a state of emergency amid three weeks of rioting.
Macron did cut short his attendance at a European Council summit in Brussels that had been due to last through Friday. He announced a ban on all “large-scale events” in France, including “celebratory events and numerous gatherings,” and urged parents to keep their children at home, saying many of those detained were young.
French President Emmanuel Macron (center) held a crisis meeting, in Paris, on Friday, after the police shooting of a teenage boy triggered protests.
Macron has also called for social media platforms to help damp down the demonstrations, asking TikTok and Snapchat to withdraw the “most sensitive content” and to identify users who employ “social networks to call for disorder or to exacerbate violence.”
What led to the unrest?
Activists believe Nahel’s race was a factor in his killing, unraveling deep-rooted tensions over police discrimination against minoritized communities in France.
Secularism – known as “laïcité” in French – is a key foundation of French culture, as it seeks to uphold equality for all by erasing markers of difference, including race.
But many people of color in France say they are more likely to be victims of police brutality than White people. A 2017 study by the Rights Defenders, an independent human rights watchdog in France, found that young men perceived to be Black or Arab were 20 times more likely to be stopped by police than their peers.
Accusations of brutality have long plagued French police. The Council of Europe criticized “excessive use of force by state agents” in a statement earlier this year during protests against Macron’s unpopular pension reforms.
Rights groups, like Amnesty International, have accused French police of ethnic profiling and have recommended deep, systemic reform to address the discrimination.
Anti-discrimination campaigners say Nahel's race was a factor in his death.
The UN called on France to address “deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement,” in the agency’s first comments since the killing.
In a statement on Friday, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged French authorities to “ensure use of force by police to address violent elements in demonstrations always respects the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discrimination, precaution and accountability.”
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs later rebuffed the UN’s comments, saying: “France, and its police forces, fight with determination against racism and all forms of discrimination. There can be no doubt about this commitment.
“The use of force by the national police and gendarmerie is governed by the principles of absolute necessity and proportionality, strictly framed and controlled,” the ministry added.
Is it safe to travel to France?
As peak travel season gets underway, multiple countries issued warnings to those visiting France, where domestic transport networks have been disrupted.
The Interior Ministry announced that public transportation, including buses and tramways, would shut down across the country by 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), ahead of a fourth night of expected protests.
Limited curfews were imposed in Clamart and Neuilly-sur-Marne, while some bus services were disrupted in Paris but the Metro system was operating as normal. The Nanterre-Préfecture train station was closed.
In Lille, bus and tramway services were more or less running normally on Friday, with some diversions in place.
In the southern city of Marseille, public transport was due to stop services at 7 p.m.
There was no disruption to the Eurostar service connecting London, Lille and Paris as a result of the protests. French intercity trains are also not affected.
Meanwhile, Britain issued a travel advisory urging tourists to “monitor the media” and “avoid areas where riots are taking place.”
German authorities also advised its citizens to “find out about the current situation where you are staying at and avoid large-scale places of violent riots.”
CNN’s Dalal Mawad, Niamh Kennedy and Lindsay Isaac contributed reporting.
Here's what you need to know. France has been rocked by a wave of protests after a 17-year-old youth was shot by police near Paris on Tuesday, sparking a ban on demonstrations in some cities, travel warnings and reigniting a debate on over-policing in marginalized communities.What caused the French riots? ›
What's behind the unrest in France? Violent riots convulsed French cities after the police shooting of a 17-year-old. The interior minister said that 45,000 officers were deployed across France overnight Saturday.Is France safe to visit during protests? ›
A US “level 2” advisory issued in October 2022 by the State Department remains in place urging travelers to “exercise increased caution in France due to terrorism and civil unrest.”Why did people protest in the French Revolution? ›
The French Revolution began in 1789 and lasted until 1794. King Louis XVI needed more money, but had failed to raise more taxes when he had called a meeting of the Estates General. This instead turned into a protest about conditions in France.Does France allow freedom of speech? ›
The French Constitution protects freedom of expression, but not to the same extent as the First Amendment does under U.S. law. Specifically, the French Constitution incorporates the Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 1789, which protects freedom of speech.How should I dress in Paris? ›
The top things to wear in Paris are berets, shades, blazers, shirts, dresses, trenchcoats, loafers, and boots. Men must not wear extremely short shorts, chunky sports shoes, sweatpants, graphic tees, and clothes with bright and bold words on them when in Paris.What are the France riots over? ›
Why are people protesting? The unrest is a response to the death of Nahel, who was shot dead during a traffic stop Tuesday morning in Nanterre. Second night of riot following the death of Nahel, in Montreuil, Ile de France, on June 30, 2023.Who was shot by police in France? ›
The killing of Nahel M, 17, has sparked riots in cities across France as well as the town of Nanterre to the west of Paris where he grew up. An only child brought up by his mother, he had been working as a takeaway delivery driver and played rugby league. His education was described as chaotic.Is it safe to walk at night in France? ›
If you are not used to wandering around Paris at night, do not try to do so without doing your research before. It is better to get to know the neighborhoods well by day before hoping to wander there at night. In general, try avoiding streets that are too dark and where there is no one else if you are alone.Is France safe for solo female? ›
Yes, France is very safe for solo female travelers. According to the Global Peace Index, France has a high state of peace and ranks #65 compared to the 163 countries on the list. Personally, I've traveled alone to France many times and have never felt uncomfortable or unsafe anywhere I've been in the country.
While there are some risks to solo and solo female travel in France, it is generally a safe destination for all visitors. Locals will tell you that traveling solo in France, wherever you go, is generally safe. French women do it all the time, after all.Was The French revolution a success? ›
Not only did it put an end to the feudal system, disband a kingdom and its monarchy, and establish civil laws and fairer representation of all peoples under governance, it also served to unify and strengthen France as a country and a people.What was the French revolution rebelling against? ›
On July 14, 1789, thousands of Parisians stormed the prison to protest King Louis XVI's abuse of power. It was a defining moment of the revolution that toppled the monarchy. When angry commoners stormed the Bastille in Paris on July 14, 1789, they struck a blow against one of the monarchy's most forbidding symbols.Does France have free healthcare? ›
Low-income individuals are entitled to free or state-sponsored VHI which includes free vision and dental. Complementary insurance is provided mainly by not-for-profit, employment-based associations. Private for-profit companies offer both supplementary and complementary health insurances.Can I go to France if I dont speak French? ›
Travelling in France without speaking French is possible.
Not speaking French will not get you into any MAJOR problem. In case of emergency there will always be someone to help you.
France has also ratified the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights 1960 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000). All these international law instruments take precedence on national legislation.Is it OK to wear jeans in Paris? ›
Parisians do wear jeans and over the years they have become more of a classic French wardrobe staple. Jeans can easily be worn year-round and dressed up or down in that chic French way.Can you wear white jeans in Paris? ›
French women usually style their favorite white denim with classic items, such as a timeless trench coat, a chic blazer, an oversized blue shirt, a nautical polo shirt, and stylish footwear.Can men wear shorts in Paris? ›
Do men wear shorts in Paris? The answer is yes, IF your knees are visible or just slightly covered if standing still. Shorts that go below the knees are a big faux pas in Paris and should be avoided. Shorts too short are not nice to see either.Why was 17 year old killed in France? ›
Nahel's mother has alleged that her son was killed because he had an "Arab face." “The officer saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life,” she said. Reportedly, Nahel was enrolled at a college in Suresnes to train to be an electrician. However, his attendance record in college was poor.
Shortly after nine in the morning on Tuesday he was fatally shot in the chest, point-blank, at the wheel of a Mercedes car for driving off during a police traffic check. At 17 he was too young for a licence. "What am I going to do now?" asked his mother.What event bankrupted France? ›
The French Revolution was not a single event but a series of developments that unfolded between 1789 and 1799. In the late 18th century France was on the brink of bankruptcy due to its involvement in the American Revolution and King Louis XVI's extravagant spending.Who was the famous serial killer in France? ›
Marcel Petiot, (born Jan. 17, 1897, Auxerre, France—died May 26, 1946, Paris), French serial killer who preyed on Jewish refugees attempting to flee France during the Nazi occupation.Who was the French serial killer in the 19th century? ›
Joseph Vacher (16 November 1869 – 31 December 1898) was a French serial killer and necrophile, sometimes known as "The French Ripper" or "L'éventreur du Sud-Est" ("The South-East Ripper") owing to comparisons to the more famous Jack the Ripper murderer of London, England, in 1888.Who was the notorious French serial killer Henri? ›
Henri Désiré Landru (12 April 1869 – 25 February 1922) (French pronunciation: [ɑ̃ʁi deziʁe lɑ̃dʁy]) was a French serial killer, nicknamed the Bluebeard of Gambais. He murdered at least seven women in the village of Gambais between December 1915 and January 1919.Is France safe for American tourists? ›
Violent attacks against tourists can occur, especially late at night in tourist areas. Robbery and muggings are common on trains to/from Paris airports. Conceal your valuables. Don't walk in quiet or poorly lit streets at night.What do you wear on a night out in France? ›
Jeans (besides dark or black-wash) are usually safest to avoid. I'd recommend a skirt, tights, and a nice blouse—paired with either boots or heels. If you're ever unsure of what would be allowed, opt for semi-formal attire: a dress or skirt (always with tights) or slacks.
The French have elevated solo dining to an art. Eating alone isn't considered sad, but rather an investment in self-care. You have to eat, so why not eat well? Women sit outside with dogs at their feet and glasses of wine at hand.Is Paris safe for Americans? ›
Paris can be a very safe place for tourists if you know what areas and situations to avoid. The US government lists France as a Level 2 travel advisory level.Do you need to wear a mask in France? ›
Since 14 March 2022, the obligation to wear a mask has been abolished in all LES and educational establishments under the Ministry of Culture (Articles 27, 35, 36 and 45) and in restaurants, drinking places and similar establishments (Article 40). This was extended to transport on 16 May 2022.
Public spaces and services
Face masks are no longer mandatory in health establishments, but remain strongly recommended. Some local health authorities may still require masks, for those aged 6 and above.
The center of Paris and the mains area including the touristy ones (Le Marais, the Latin quarter, the Louvre area….) are very safe, as it's a vibrant area either day or night. Les Halles is a huge meeting place with metro and RER connecting from many places. Therefore, it can be a bit crowded during the day.What does France call Santa Claus? ›
Santa Claus is called Père Noël in French or Father Christmas.What do France call Christmas? ›
In French Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Joyeux Noël'. In Breton (spoken by some people in Brittany, Northern France) it's 'Nedeleg Laouen', in Corsican it's 'Bon Natale' and in Alsatian (spoken by some people in Alsace, in Eastern France) it's 'E güeti Wïnâchte'.Which group paid the least in taxes under the old regime? ›
The taxation system under the Ancien Régime largely excluded the nobles and the clergy from taxation while the commoners, particularly the peasantry, paid disproportionately high direct taxes.Did the French revolution abolish slavery? ›
In February 1794, the French republic outlawed slavery in its colonies. Revolutionaries in Saint-Domingue secured not only their own freedom, but that of their French colonial counterparts, too.What was the biggest problem in the French revolution? ›
Throughout the 18th century, France faced a mounting economic crisis. A rapidly growing population had outpaced the food supply. A severe winter in 1788 resulted in famine and widespread starvation in the countryside.Why did many Americans support the French revolution? ›
Americans hoped for democratic reforms that would solidify the existing Franco-American alliance and transform France into a republican ally against aristocratic and monarchical Britain.Who stopped the French revolution? ›
The revolution came to an end 1799 when a general named Napoleon overthrew the revolutionary government and established the French Consulate (with Napoleon as leader).What is the emergency in France? ›
112 - European phone number
for any emergency requiring an ambulance, fire services or police when traveling in a European country; by foreigners travelers who do not know emergency numbers in France.
According to the French interior minister, 107,000 people participated in the protests following calls from leftwing parties.Where in France are the riots happening? ›
Forty-five thousand police officers, including special forces, were deployed to respond to rioting across the country on Friday night, with the situation in two big cities – Marseille and Lyon – highlighted as particularly chaotic, with buildings and vehicles torched and stores looted.Where are the French riots happening? ›
Unrest has flared nationwide, including in cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille as well as Paris where Nahel M., a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent, was shot on Tuesday in the Nanterre suburb.What happens when you dial 15 in France? ›
#15: SAMU (Ambulances and emergency services)
In case of a medical emergency, if you need immediate care, this is the number to know by heart and call! CAUTION – this is only for serious medical emergencies! You will speak to a doctor who will determine the course of action that fits your medical situation.
This number puts you in contact with the appropriate emergency police services nearest you, whether that is the Police Nationale or the Gendarmerie Nationale. For non-urgent situations, make a note of the direct phone number for your nearest police station (commissariat de police or gendarmerie).Is there 911 in Paris? ›
Wrapping up French Emergency numbers of France
Here are the emergency telephone numbers in France again. 112 works anywhere in France and the EU. If you would rather call the local French emergency services directly for faster service, dial 15 for medical emergencies, 17 for police and 18 for fire the fire department.
France is known all around the world for Paris and its monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and the Notre-Dame cathedral. French people are very passionate about their culture and art, which is showcased in many museums like the Louvre.Why is France rioting 2023? ›
Why are people protesting? The unrest is a response to the death of Nahel, who was shot dead during a traffic stop Tuesday morning in Nanterre. Second night of riot following the death of Nahel, in Montreuil, Ile de France, on June 30, 2023.Which French cities have riots? ›
Macron had denied there is systemic racism inside French law enforcement agencies. Buildings and vehicles have been torched and stores looted in the unrest, which has spread nationwide, including to cities such as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.What was the main cause of France riots in 2005? ›
On October 27, 2005, two French youths of Malian and Tunisian descent were electrocuted as they fled the police in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Their deaths sparked nearly three weeks of rioting in 274 towns throughout the Paris region, France, and beyond (see maps, pictures, and graphs here.)
Bay of Fundy (1755) The first wave of the expulsion began on August 10, 1755, with the Bay of Fundy Campaign during the French and Indian War. The British ordered the expulsion of the Acadians after the Battle of Beausejour (1755).Why did riots begin in France in the late 1700s? ›
A rapidly growing population had outpaced the food supply. A severe winter in 1788 resulted in famine and widespread starvation in the countryside. Rising prices in Paris brought bread riots.Is The French Revolution still going on? ›
The French Revolution was a period of major social upheaval that began in 1787 and ended in 1799.