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Police arrest 1,000 in French riots; Tourism sector faces cancellation

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NANTERRE, FRANCE—Violence and looting hit France in a fourth night of protests as massively deployed police made nearly 1,000 arrests and the country braced for more riots ahead of the funeral Saturday of the teenager who was killed by an officer during a traffic stop.

The government said the violence had “lessened” compared to previous nights, but the interior ministry still reported 994 arrests nationwide overnight, and 79 injuries among police and gendarmes.

This is more than on any night since the protests began Tuesday, sparked by the death of 17-year-old Nahel by a police bullet.

Provisional ministry numbers released early Saturday also included 1,350 vehicles and 234 buildings torched, and 2,560 incidents of fire set in public spaces.

The clashes continued despite France deploying 45,000 officers, the highest number of any night since the start of the protests, backed by light armored vehicles and elite police units.

A protester walks by a burning car during clashes with police in Le Port, French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, on June 30, 2023, three days after a 17-year-old boy was shot in the chest by police at point-blank range in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. AFP

They were unable to stop looting in the cities of Marseille, Lyon and Grenoble, with bands of often-hooded rioters pillaging shops.

Despite rain pouring down on Paris and its suburbs since the small hours of Saturday, rioting also flared up there, with close to half the nationwide arrests, 406, made in and around the capital, a police source told AFP.

But during a visit to Mantes-la-Jolie west of Paris on Saturday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin maintained that the night’s violence had been of “much less intensity”.

Darmanin had announced an “exceptional” deployment of police and gendarmes to deal with the riots over the death of Nahel, who will be buried on Saturday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre where he lived and died.

Dozens of police vans were positioned not far from the entrance to the Vieux Pont district of Nanterre, which was the epicentre of the unrest, and nine people had been arrested for carrying Molotov cocktails and petrol canisters.

Impact on tourism

The violent protests across France started to impact the country’s tourism sector, with hotels and restaurants facing cancellations while some have also suffered damage in the unrest.

Since the death of 17-year-old Nahel during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on Tuesday, “our hotel members have suffered a wave of cancellations of reservations in all the territories affected by the damage and clashes,” said chef Thierry Marx, president of the main association for hotel and catering industry employers.

Marx said Friday he was receiving daily alerts from industry professionals who have suffered “attacks, looting and destruction of their businesses, including some restaurants and cafes”.

“Our establishments are intrinsically hospitality venues, and sometimes even refuges and places of help in crisis situations. They must not suffer the consequences of anger that they have not aroused and we condemn these actions,” he said.

Marx wants the authorities to do “everything” to guarantee the safety of people in the hotel and catering industry in the world’s most popular tourist destination.

The French retail federation (FCD) also called for reinforced police security around stores, said managing director Jacques Creyssel.

The riots “gave rise to real scenes of looting”, he said, with “more than a hundred medium and large food or non-food stores vandalised, looted or even burned”.

These incidents “are extremely serious and have an extremely heavy cost”, according to Creyssel, who said he had asked the economy, interior and trade ministers to act.

The Paris Ile-de-France Chamber of Commerce said it was ensuring its teams were mobilised to “provide the necessary support and technical assistance, particularly in terms of continuing operations, insurance compensation, etc…” for traders and managers of affected companies.

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