France to deploy 40,000 police officers as Macron seeks to avoid rerun of 2005 riots

PARIS – Violent unrest across France following the killing of a teenager by police in a Paris suburb has raised fears of the riots that rocked French suburbs for several weeks in 2005 – and Emmanuel Macron’s government is trying to prevent it from happening again. Struggling to stop.

The French president called an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday morning in the wake of overnight clashes in French cities after police shot a 17-year-old boy during a traffic stop in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.

The government decided to cancel all “non-priority” visits of ministers, the latest move by the government to ease the tension prevailing in the country.

Macron’s own reaction to the pictures of a police officer who shot Nahel M. (his full name has not been given) was quick and clear. While some questioned whether the police officer felt threatened by the teen, Pres. spoke about the “feeling of the nation” and said the killing was “unexplainable” and “inexcusable”.

Instructions have also been issued to police officers to avoid such behavior which could spread tension among the poor of France. suburbsAccording to paris playbook, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said around 40,000 police officers were being deployed across France.

There is an uneasy familiarity between the latest unrest and the events that shook France nearly 20 years ago.

In 2005, two youths – Zayd Benna and Dwarf Traoré – died while trying to escape from a police checkpoint in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. In the weeks of rioting that followed, youths in the suburbs fought frequent battles with police, and on some nights, dozens were arrested and hundreds of cars were torched. Like Nahel M., Benna and Traoré were from immigrant backgrounds, and their deaths sparked a sense of injustice among many.

To end the unrest in 2005, the government was forced to declare a state of emergency.

“I worry we will suffer what I suffered 18 years ago in 2005,” said Francois Molins, a former prosecutor in northern Paris, where the riots began. “It is moving very fast. and i hope we don’t have to face it [situation] And everyone will come to their senses,” he added. TV channel France 2.

On Thursday, Macron again called for calm after 180 people were arrested overnight, public buildings were attacked and a tram was set on fire in a Paris suburb.

caught in the crossfire

For Macron, the timing of the tragic death of Nahel M. could not have been worse. France has recently been emerging from protests over reforms that raised the legal pension age from 62 to 64.

The president also had to deal with domestic discontent over inflation and the volatile international landscape caused by the war in Ukraine. On Thursday he went to Brussels for a meeting with fellow EU leaders.

GettyImages 1259146184
Firefighters extinguish a burning vehicle destroyed by protesters in Nanterre | Zakaria Abdelkafi/AFP via Getty Images

Seeking an opportunity to attack a president already weakened after losing his majority in parliamentary elections last year, the opposition has been whittling down the government.

While government ministers are calling for peace, several left-wing personalities have been accused of stoking tensions. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon tweeted overnight that “the guard dogs are ordering us to be quiet. We are pleading for justice.”

and then there’s the situation suburbs, In recent years, things have been relatively calm despite predictions that tensions would escalate during the COVID-19 pandemic. The government says this is partly due to greater access to jobs under Macron and more investment in poorer suburbs.

But elements of the unrest still remain – hatred of the police, drug-related crime, and a sense that France’s merit system is no longer working.

poor neighborhood “The children are fed up as they have to face police checks all the time, the police wake up every morning with fear in their stomachs. So when you attack the match, the tension rises,” said French political analyst Chloe Morin.

“And de-escalating the situation is even more complicated, because there is a deep distrust of politicians,” he added.

The French president knows how quickly unrest linked to allegations of police brutality in France can escalate. During the Yellow Jacket protests of 2018 and 2019, violence escalated as protesters took their anger out on the streets and security forces resorted to heavy-handed tactics.

In 2005, then-president Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of stirring up trouble with comments that he wanted to “clean up”. suburbs,

Macron’s message is one of appeasement – ​​but there is no guarantee it will be heard.

Nicolas Camut, Anthony Latier and Elisa Bartholomey contributed reporting.