Macron Scraps German Trip as France Braces for More Violence

Macron Scraps German Trip as France Braces for More Violence

President Emmanuel Macron postponed a long-planned state visit to Germany as France braces for a potential fifth night of riots and looting triggered by the police killing of a teenager.

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(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron postponed a long-planned state visit to Germany as France braces for a potential fifth night of riots and looting triggered by the police killing of a teenager.

The cancellation of his meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is another sign that the violence is eroding Macron’s international agenda. On Friday, he left a summit of European Union leaders early to return home, only to face another night of violence that led to more than 1,300 arrests.

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A private funeral was held Saturday at a mosque in a suburb near Paris for the 17-year-old boy of North African descent, Agence France-Presse reported. The unrest, which has drawn comparisons with America’s reaction to the murder of George Floyd in 2020, is growing into a moment of reckoning for France.

The Interior Ministry is sending police reinforcements to Lyon and Marseille after confrontations Friday night between police and mostly young people resulted in ransacked shops and damaged buildings despite the deployment of 45,000 officers across the nation. More than 2,500 fires burned and hundreds of buildings were damaged.  

Ten shopping malls, more than 200 supermarkets, 250 tobacco shops and 250 bank outlets were attacked or looted, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Saturday.

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“The violence and looting across the nation is totally unacceptable,” he said. “These acts are inexcusable.”

The unrest is particularly troubling for the French government, which already faced down months of protests over an unpopular pension reform law that got as many as 1.28 million people to protest as recently as March. Those marches petered out in May as French labor unions acknowledged that they had failed to force Macron to back down.

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Overnight, public buildings such as town halls, police stations and libraries were also targeted by rioters. Store looting was reported in Marseille, Lyon, Grenoble and in areas within and around Paris.  

Macron’s planned three-day visit to Germany was meant to ease tensions between the euro region’s two biggest economies over issues ranging from energy to defense. The leaders were also set to discuss Ukraine’s EU membership bid and how to provide Kyiv with security guarantees. 

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Macron earlier called on parents and social-media platforms to help stem the unrest. 

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin met with representatives of Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and Meta on Friday, saying in a statement that they should pull “illegal” messages calling for violence and insurrection. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti on Saturday vowed to punish those behind posts inciting violence.

The funeral of Nahel, 17, took place in Nanterre, where he was fatally shot at close range in a car. Video posted on social media showed two police officers leaning into the vehicle, with one of them shooting as the driver pulls away. Authorities haven’t released Nahel’s last name.

The officer who fired the shot on Nahel has been charged with murder and is being held in pre-trial detention. Pascal Prache, the Nanterre prosecutor, said Thursday the legal conditions for the use of a weapon were not met.

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Laurent-Franck Lienard, a lawyer for the officer, told Europe 1 radio that the policeman believed he “needed” to shoot.

Nahel’s mother, identified only as Mounia, said in an interview with France 5 that she didn’t blame the police force. “I blame one person, the one who took my son’s life,” she said. “He saw an Arab face, a little kid. He wanted to take his life.”

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Shops were ransacked overnight in Marseille and rioting left the center of Grenoble in eastern France littered with broken glass, empty shoe boxes and broken store mannequins, Agence France-Presse reported. Tobacco stores were targeted in particular because their merchandise can be resold, Philippe Coy, head of the sector’s French lobby, told BFM television.

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France’s unrest harks back to 2005 when weeks of riots followed the death of two boys in an electricity substation after a police chase. It has thrown a spotlight on French policing practices as well as long-simmering tensions in the country’s poorer suburbs. 

In 2005, the French government declared a state of emergency that lasted close to two months. 

While Macron has avoided that step for now, authorities on Friday ordered the cancellation of some events and gatherings.

Soccer star Kylian Mbappe and several teammates from the Paris Saint-Germain football club appealed for calm and condemned the violence. They said in a letter posted on Twitter that while many of them were from poorer neighborhoods and understood the anger, the reaction was destroying the perpetrators’ own towns and hurting their families.  

“The time for violence has to stop and make way for grief, dialogue and reconstruction,” they wrote. 

—With assistance from Samy Adghirni and Ania Nussbaum.

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