French president urges parents to keep teens at home as government orders buses to stop at 9 p.m
PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron urged parents Friday to keep teenagers at home and blamed social media for fueling rioting that has spread dramatically across France following the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver.
In the face of a growing crisis that hundreds of arrests and massive police deployments have failed to quell, Macron held off on declaring a state of emergency, an option that was used in similar circumstances in 2005. Instead, his government ratcheted up a law enforcement response that has resulted in 875 arrests.
The interior minister ordered a nationwide nighttime shutdown of all public buses and trams, which were among the targets of three consecutive nights of urban unrest. Macron also zeroed-in on social media platforms that have relayed dramatic images of cars and buildings being torched and other acts of violence.
Social networks are playing a “considerable role” in the violence, the French leader said. Singling out Snapchat and TikTok by name, he said the platforms were being used to organize unrest and serving as conduits for copycat violence.
Macron said his government would work with technology companies to establish procedures for “the removal of the most sensitive content.” He did not specify the content he had in mind but said, “I expect a spirit of responsibility from these platforms.”
French authorities also plan to request, when “useful,” the identities “of those who use these social networks to call for disorder or exacerbate the violence,” the president said.
The police shooting of the 17-year-old, who only has been identified by his first name, Nahel, was captured on video. The boy’s death has shocked France and stirred up long-simmering tensions between police and young people in housing projects and disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Macron said a third of the individuals arrested Thursday night were “young people, sometimes very young,” and that “it’s the parents’ responsibility” to keep their children at home.
“We sometimes have the feeling that some of them are living out, in the streets, the video games that have intoxicated them,” he said of rioters.
Since a police officer shot and killed the teenager Tuesday in the northwestern Paris suburb of Nanterre. rioters have erected barricades, lit fires and shot fireworks at police, who responded with tear gas, water cannons and stun grenades. Police said at least 200 officers have been injured.
Macron’s government has deployed 40,000 officers to restore order and make arrests over behavior he described as “unacceptable and unjustifiable.” He stopped short of announcing a state of emergency, a tactic used in 2005 to quell rioting after the accidental deaths of two boys while they fled police.
This week’s unrest comes just over a year before Paris and other French cities rattled by violence are due to host 10,500 Olympians and millions of visitors for the summer Olympic Games. The Paris 2024 organizing committee said it was closely monitoring the situation and that preparations for the Olympics continued.
Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache said officers tried to pull Nahel over because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish license plates in a bus lane. He allegedly ran a red light to avoid being stopped and then got stuck in traffic.
The police officer accused of pulling the trigger was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide after Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude that the officer’s use of his weapon wasn’t legally justified. Preliminary charges mean investigating magistrates strongly suspect wrongdoing but need to investigate more before sending a case to trial.
The officer said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car as Nahel attempted to flee, according to the prosecutor.
France’s national police agency said nearly half of the 875 people who have been detained were from the Paris region. There were riots in dozens of towns and cities across France, and the unrest extended as far as Belgium’s capital, Brussels, where about a dozen people were detained and several fires were brought under control.
In several Paris neighborhoods, groups of people hurled firecrackers at security forces. The police station in the city’s 12th district was attacked, while some shops were looted along Rivoli street, near the Louvre museum, and at the Forum des Halles, the largest shopping mall in central Paris.
Armored police vehicles rammed through the charred remains of cars that had been flipped and set ablaze in Nanterre.
In the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, police sought to disperse violent groups in the city center, regional authorities said.
This week’s protests echoed the three weeks of rioting in 2005 that followed the deaths of 15-year-old Bouna Traoré and 17-year-old Zyed Benna, who were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation in Clichy-sous-Bois.
Corbet and Leicester reported from Paris. Associated Press journalists Jeffrey Schaeffer and Aurelien Morissard in Nanterre, Raf Casert in Brussels, Claire Rush in Portland, Oregon, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.