July 1 (UPI) — More than 1,300 people were arrested and 79 police officers were injured overnight Saturday as anti-racism protests surged across France for a fourth consecutive night.
The French Interior Ministry said 45,000 police and gendarmes backed by light armored vehicles were mobilized across the country as France reeled from the fallout of over the shooting death of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, who was killed by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on Tuesday.
Authorities said the French National Police and the Paris Police Prefecture were also mobilized overnight to “maintain and restore republican order” and to counter offenses and disturbances.
The government’s inter-ministerial crisis unit met again early Saturday to assess the level of damage during the fourth night of riots, which Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin characterized as less intense than previous evenings during an appearance with police in Mantes-la-Jolie, about 35 miles west Paris.
Local officials, however, reported “unprecedented” waves of looting and violence in cities across the country overnight, including in Lyon, where Mayor Grégory Doucet appealed for police reinforcements to aid local gendarmes who were “overwhelmed” by the scale of the rioting.
Doucet said mobile bands of young people on foot, bicycles and scooters had attacked and looted 40 shops in the city and had burned 20 vehicles.
Official buildings were also targeted by attackers in the latest wave of rioting, including city halls in the northern cities of Lens and Oise.
The latest rioting came ahead of funeral services for Nahel, which got underway in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Saturday.
Hundreds of mourners chanting and crying followed the body of Nahel from a mosque to the Mont-Valérien cemetery in Nanterre, where he will be laid to rest, Britain’s Independent reported.