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Paris, July 1 – At least 471 people were arrested overnight across France as violent protests against the police killing of a teenager continued for a fourth straight night, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced.
In a statement, he said a “downturn” was witnessed in the unrest on Friday, with 471 arrests compared to the 917 the previous night, reports the BBC.
Although the situation in the Paris region was calmer in the Paris region, things remained tense in Marseille and Lyon, he added.
The Minister said in a tweet that reinforcements would be sent to Marseille following reports by the local mayor of violence and looting.
The government had deployed 45,000 police personnel, special units, armored vehicles and helicopters to maintain law and order and keep the violence in check.
But despite this, widespread violence, vandalism and looting took place in cities across the country, with buildings and vehicles set on fire.
Protests continued into the early hours of Saturday morning in defiance of a ban announced on Friday on all “large-scale events” in the country, with rioting breaking out in several cities, CNN quoted the local BFMTV as saying in a report.
Social media footages of Lyon showed rapid gunfire from an automatic rifle at night, fireworks being released at a protest and demonstrators next to burning fires.
There was an explosion in the Old Port of Marseille on Friday evening, according to BFMTV, but no casualties had been reported.
It also shared video showing damage to the Alcazar library in Marseille which it said had been vandalised during the night.
The unrest is in response to the death of 17-year-old Nahel, who was shot dead during a traffic stop on Tuesday morning in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, CNN reported.
Footage of the incident filmed by a bystander showed two officers standing on the driver’s side of the car, one of whom fired his gun at the driver despite not appearing to be in any immediate danger.
The officer has said he fired his gun out of fear that the boy would run someone over with the car, according to Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache.
The officer currently faces a formal investigation for voluntary homicide and has been placed in preliminary detention.
On Friday morning, the government had also called on regional authorities to shut down overnight bus and tram services nationwide, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, the ioting in France has spilled over into Belgium, with dozens of arrests being reported.
According to local French media, some 100 people were arrested in Brussels.
This level of unrest and rioting has not been seen since 2005 when the deaths of two teenage boys who were hiding from police sparked weeks of rioting and prompted the government to call a state of emergency.
But the French government has so far resisted calling a state of emergency this time around.
A spokesperson for the Elysee said on Friday that a state of emergency was “not necessary” and that a “gradual response” to the violence seen in recent days was “more appropriate”.
The spokesperson noted that the 2005 state of emergency was called “after about 9 days of violence,” adding that the law surrounding it was an “exception” that should be used only “when the situation on the ground requires it”, reports CNN
“This is not the revolt of neighborhoods. This is not about disenfranchised neighborhoods. This is the action of a delinquent minority,” the spokesperson said, denying there was any racial motivation behind the shooting and insisting it was an “individual act” that did not represent the police at large.