Posted on June 30, 2023

French Riots Escalate as Macron Struggles to Respond

Stacy Meichtry et al., Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2023

Riots over the shooting of a teenager by police escalated with looting in the French capital, plunging President Emmanuel Macron’s government into what has become a nightly confrontation with youths from France’s working-class suburbs.

For the third consecutive night since the killing of a 17-year-old identified as Nahel M., rioters burned municipal buildings and faced off with police in the towns around the French capital, with clashes as far away as Marseille, Reims and Lyon. A dozen buses were burned at a depot north of Paris, the French transportation minister said. Inside the city, video footage showed masked people breaking the windows of a major shopping mall.

The surge in violence forced Macron to cut short his visit to Brussels for a European Union summit and return to Paris to hold an emergency cabinet meeting—his second in two days—a spokesman said.

The French leader now faces a fresh crisis after struggling this spring to contain violent protests over his unpopular decision to raise the age of retirement. This time the unrest stems from tensions that have been brewing for years between police and France’s working-class minorities, many of them Muslim, who reside in the country’s banlieues, or city outskirts.

Macron has condemned Nahel M.’s killing as inexcusable while calling for calm. {snip}


Gérald Darmanin, his interior minister, deployed 40,000 police to the streets Thursday night, vowing a firm response to the violence. On Friday, a spokesman for the interior minister said 875 people had been detained. The majority of them are between 14 and 18 years old, French officials said.


The latest riots started Tuesday after a police officer shot and killed Nahel M., who was of Algerian descent, during a traffic stop in Nanterre, a suburb west of Paris, authorities said.


Authorities shut down tram and bus services Thursday evening in an attempt to contain the violence. Rioters responded by taking the mayhem to the center of Paris and other cities. Stores were looted and public buildings vandalized, police said.