Around 3,200 people were arrested since Tuesday during riots over the killing of 17-year-old Nahel M. by police, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told reporters on Monday.
The average age of those arrested was 17 and some were “children, there is no other word, of 12 or 13,” Darmanin said on a visit to the eastern city of Reims.
During a sixth consecutive night of unrest, a fireman died while seeking to douse burning vehicles north of Paris, but it was unclear if there was a link to the violent protests, the French Interior Ministry said.
Monday’s demonstrations – called a “mobilization of citizens for a return to republican order” – came after the home of the mayor of a Paris suburb was rammed with a flaming car, prompting widespread outrage.
Although the riots in France appear to be calming, the Interior Ministry again deployed 45,000 police and gendarmes nationwide overnight Sunday to Monday, the same figure as the previous two nights.
Meanwhile, internal affairs investigators on Monday began interviewing a passenger in the car Nahel was driving without a license, AFP reported, citing a police source.
The riots amount to the worst crisis for French President Emmanuel Macron since the “Yellow Vest” protests of 2018–2019, which erupted over fuel prices.
In mid-April, Macron gave himself 100 days to bring reconciliation and unity to the country after rolling strikes and sometimes violent protests over his raising of the retirement age, which he had promised in his election campaign.
Macron urged the government on Sunday to take all necessary measures to restore order in the country.
The president hosted a crisis meeting on Sunday evening with high-ranking members of the government, during which he asked the ministers to “continue to do everything in their power to restore order and guarantee a return to calm.”
Macron postponed a state visit to Germany to deal with the crisis. He was due to meet the leaders of parliament on Monday and over 220 mayors of towns and cities that have been affected by riots on Tuesday.