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France riots: Violence and looting subsides in Nanterre and Paris – but it is an uneasy calm | World News

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In their line of riot vans, the police sat ready on the edge of Nanterre.

They were deliberately stationed away from the centre of the neighbourhood to the west of Paris – they know they now can’t go in there without inciting yet more confrontation.

It was here that one of their colleagues shot dead 17-year-old Nehal Merzouk last Tuesday morning.

France riots latest: Police stand guard in Marseille

Nahel Merzouk

Over the weekend the violence and looting have subsided here and across Paris, but it is an uneasy calm.

Small groups of lookout youths still loiter on the approaches into Nanterre’s centre which is littered with burnt out vehicles and scorched tarmac on the roads.

A phrase that reads "No Justice, No Peace" is painted on a crystal cube, in Nanterre
‘No Justice, No Peace’ painted on cube in Nanterre

They are watching everyone who ventures in, guarding their community.

In the early hours of Monday, we saw the armed police just monitoring the situation from a distance.

Police officers patrol in front of the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees in Paris, Saturday, July 1, 2023.
Police in front of the Arc de Triomphe on Saturday

They weren’t going in unless they really needed to – probably hoping the plea from Nehal’s grandmother for the violence to stop would be one of the most effective ways of damping down the flames of discontent.

For now, at least, it looks to have had an effect.

Read more:
Around 45,000 police and paramilitary deployed across France
Burning car used in ram-raid attack on mayor’s home
The ‘double discrimination’ and racism fuelling and widespread looting and vandalism

The hordes of youngsters who gathered in central Paris on Saturday night dressed in black with face coverings were nowhere to be seen on Sunday.

The squads of police motorbike riders were ready to intercept troublemakers again but saw a much quieter night.

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‘They’re using Nahel as a pretext’

The water canon vehicle was parked just off the Champs Elysees, its tanks remained full.

The massive police presence across France appears to be working – they are reasserting some authority, but it all feels so fragile.

Residents walk past phrases written on walls of buildings at a neighbourhood where Nahel was killed, in Nanterre
Phrases written on walls in Nanterre

One further mistake or moment of miscalculation from just one police officer could reignite it all.

The scars from this last week run deep, the clean-up and rebuild will take months but the long running divisions that underpin it all are going nowhere.

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