Grandmother of teen killed in police stop calls for calm, as France prepares for sixth night of violence


The grandmother of the 17-year-old boy who was fatally shot by a police officer in a Paris suburb has called for an end to the violence that erupted in the aftermath of his death, as French authorities gear up for a sixth night of rioting.

Victim Nahel Merzouk’s grandmother appealed to protesters on Sunday, telling CNN’s affiliate BFMTV: “They should not damage the schools, not break the buses, it was the moms who take the buses.”

“I’m tired,” the grandmother, identified by BMFTV as Nadia, said, adding that Nahel’s mother, “doesn’t have a life anymore.”

Meanwhile, security forces will again have more than 45,000 police and gendarmes deployed across France on Sunday night following the violent public unrest, the government said.

Many of the people detained since the protests began on Tuesday are minors, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Saturday, adding that the average age of the more than 2,000 detainees is 17 years old.

The situation across France so far on Sunday has been less tense than Saturday, with only sporadic protests reported, but the violence normally kicks off after sunset, according to CNN producers in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet the country’s prime minister, interior minister and justice minister at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET) to take an update on the latest on the nationwide protests, the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Early Sunday morning, the mayor of a Paris suburb said his home was attacked, calling it “an assassination attempt” on his family.

“At 1:30 a.m., while I was at the city hall like the past three nights, individuals rammed their car upon my residence before setting fire to it to burn my house, inside which my wife and my two young children slept,” said mayor Vincent Jeanbrun of L’Haÿ-les-Roses, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, in a statement.

“While trying to protect the children and escape the attackers, my wife and one of my children were injured.”

Jeanbrun said that he had “no words strong enough to describe his emotion towards the horror of this night” and thanked police and rescue services for their help.

The Créteil prosecutor’s office has classified the incident as an “attempted murder,” prosecutor Stéphane Hardouin told reporters Sunday.

Hardouin said the initial findings of a police investigation suggest that a flaming car “was launched to burn down the pavilion,” entering Jeanbrun’s property at around 1:30am local time.

“Hitting a low wall, the vehicle stopped… before it could reach the veranda of the house. Only the front gate was hit, along with the family’s vehicle,” the prosecutor said in a news conference outside the mayor’s home.

He said the mayor’s wife and two children, aged 5 and 7, fled through the back garden. While running away, the mayor’s wife hurt her shin which “appears to be broken,” according to the prosecutor.

Hardouin also said forensic police have found a fire accelerant in a bottle of Coke. He didn’t specify which substance the accelerant was.

“Every effort will be made to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” the prosecutor concluded.

France has been rocked by a wave of protests following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old of Algerian descent who was shot by a police officer in Nanterre earlier in the week and whose funeral took place on Saturday at a mosque in the Paris suburb amid a heavy security presence.

The youth’s death has reignited a debate on policing in France’s marginalized communities and raised questions over whether race was a factor in his death.

A GoFundMe page in support of the family of the police officer accused of fatally shooting the teenager had reached almost €650,000 ($710,000) on Sunday afternoon.

The page was started by a far-right TV pundit and claims the policeman “only did his job and is now paying a hard price for it.”

The officer has been charged with voluntary homicide and placed in preliminary detention, the prosecutor of Nanterre said earlier in the week.

In comparison, another crowdfunding page in support of Nahel’s mother had raised over €97,000 ($105,000) at the time of writing. The page reads Nahel “leaves behind a mother torn apart by the loss of her only son. She needs our support to face the long trials that lie ahead.”

While the French government has deployed security forces and riot police across the country, the unrest continued with another night of protests on Saturday.

More than 700 people were detained across France overnight, according to a provisional tally from the Interior Ministry.

The statement added 45 police officers and gendarmes had been injured overnight, while 74 buildings including 26 police and gendarmes stations were damaged and 577 vehicles set on fire.

The previous night, more than 1,300 people were detained and 2,560 fires reported on public roads.

Meanwhile, China has warned its citizens in France to remain vigilant after a bus carrying a Chinese tour group in the southern city of Marseille had its windows smashed, resulting in multiple minor injuries, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday.

China’s Consulate General in Marseille has lodged an official complaint and urged French authorities to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and property amid the unrest.

The ministry did not say when the incident took place or how many people were injured. It said all the tourists on the group have since left France.

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