French President Emmanuel Macron ordered children to stay home as riots ravaged the country. Macron issued the direction after it was confirmed that most people arrested for involvement in the carnage were “young, or very young.”
“It’s the responsibility of parents to keep them at home. It’s not the state’s job to act in their place,” Macron told reporters.
The President has been under fire for clips that emerged showing him at an Elton John concert in Paris during the riots. He did not address these when speaking at a press conference in the French capital.
The unrest began when police in Nanterre, a suburb close to Paris, shot and killed a 17-year-old of Algerian descent. Nahel Merzouk had a long record of run-ins with law enforcement and was shot when he sped into busy traffic ignoring police requests for him to stop. The police officer involved, who is now held on homicide charges, said he did not mean to kill the teenager but sought to prevent him from placing innocent motorists in danger.
A GoFundMe account set up for the police officer’s legal defense raised more than $1.5 million in just a few days. More than 2,000 people were arrested in the riots and 45,000 police officers were deployed to restore order. Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti has reportedly called for harsh sentences to be handed down and said that anyone found to have committed vandalism or acts of physical violence should be imprisoned.
The riots have affected most major urban hubs in France, including Paris, Marseille, and Lyon. Chants of “Allahu Akbar” were heard at many sites as European media portrayed the violence as an uprising of the poor. The United Nations blamed the disorder on French authorities and said the country must take stock and address the “deep issues” of racism in policing. An official statement from the UN did not condemn those engaged in violent disorder and rioting.