PARIS (Reuters) – French police arrested 16 people overnight in connection with urban violence, the interior ministry said on Wednesday, indicating a further decrease in the scale of unrest that swept through poor French suburbs after a fatal police shooting last week.
The death on June 27 of Nahel M., a teenager of North African descent, after he was shot by a police officer in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, caused an outpouring of rage that led to nights of nationwide rioting and a muscular police crackdown.
At the peak of the unrest, in the night of Friday to Saturday, police arrested more than 1,300 people. The situation began to quieten on Sunday, and on the night of Monday to Tuesday police arrested 81 people, according to the ministry.
The riots laid bare the profound polarisation of French society on issues such as the integration, or lack of it, of ethnic and religious minorities, and on how the values of the republic should be understood in contemporary France.
The government and the political right have denounced the rioters and expressed strong support for the police, with little sign emerging of any willingness to engage with complaints that the police discriminate against minorities and can be violent.
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In contrast, left-wing parties and many citizens have highlighted the racism and marginalisation experienced by generations of French youths of immigrant descent in the poor suburbs and the issue of police violence and impunity.
The police officer who shot Nahel is in custody facing a charge of voluntary homicide.
A crowdfunding campaign launched by far-right figure Jean Messiha to raise money for the officer’s family received 1.6 million euros ($1.74 million) in donations, far outstripping a similar fundraiser for Nahel’s family.
Messiha shut down his GoFundMe appeal for the officer’s family late on Tuesday after a barrage of complaints and threats of legal action from left-wing parties and Nahel’s family, TV channel BFM reported.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, known for his hardline positions on law-and-order issues, was scheduled to answer questions on the unrest at 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) on Wednesday in front of a Senate committee.
The minister overseeing small and medium companies, Olivia Gregoire, told TV channel France 2 earlier that more than 1,000 stores and businesses had been affected to varying degrees by the rioting and vandalism of the past week.
(Reporting by Blandine Henault and Jean-Stephane Brosse; Writing by Estelle Shirbon and Toby Chopra)
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