France protests ease as Macron prepares to meet leaders of parliament


President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet the leaders of both houses of parliament on Monday as violent protests over the police shooting of teenager Nahel M appeared to ease after five nights of unrest that have seen thousands arrested and widespread destruction.

Police made 49 arrests nationwide on Sunday, French media reported, citing the interior ministry, down significantly from 719 arrests the day before, and 1,300 on Friday.

Macron will also meet on Tuesday with the mayors of 220 towns and cities affected by the protests, Macron’s office said, after a crisis meeting on Sunday night with government ministers.

The ebbing violence follows an appeal for calm from the grandmother of Nahel, the 17-year-old killed on Tuesday during a police traffic stop in a Paris suburb.

“Stop rioting, stop destroying,” the grandmother, named as Nadia, told BFMTV. “I say this to those who are rioting: do not smash windows, attack schools and buses. Stop. It’s mothers who take those buses.” The rioters, mostly minors, were “using Nahel as an excuse”, she said. “We want things to calm down.” Her grandson, identified by only his first name, was buried on Saturday.

On Sunday, politicians condemned an attack on Saturday night in which rioters rammed a burning car into the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of L’Haÿ-les-Roses, nine miles (15km) south of Paris, at about 1.30am while his family were asleep. Jeanbrun was at the town hall at the time, but his wife and one of his two children, aged five and seven, were injured as they fled. Jeanbrun’s wife suffered a broken leg.

“Last night was a new milestone in horror and disgrace,” the mayor, from the conservative Les Républicains party, tweeted, condemning “an act of unspeakable cowardice”.

Regional prosecutor Stephane Hardouin opened an attempted murder investigation on Sunday, telling French television that a preliminary investigation suggested the car was meant to ram the house and set it ablaze. “First indications suggest the car was driven into the building in order to set fire to it,” Stéphane Hardouin said, adding that a Coca-Cola bottle filled with flammable liquid had also been found at the scene.

Visiting L’Haÿ-les-Roses on Sunday, Elisabeth Borne, the prime minister, denounced “an intolerable attack” and pledged those responsible would not get away with it. While the situation was much calmer overall, the attack was particularly shocking, she said.

Rioters also entered the garden of another mayor, in La Riche, outside the city of Tours, and tried to set light to his car, prosecutors said. Politicians of all parties expressed outrage at the attacks, with demonstrations of support planned outside town halls across France on Monday.

By Monday morning, a GoFundMe page to support the police officer charged over the killing of Nahel had attracted more than €800,000 (£690,000) in donations. The office was “doing his job and was now paying a high price for it”, the page read.

More than 3,000 people have been detained since Tuesday, after the mass deployment of 45,000 police officers around the country. Over the weekend, Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said the deployment would be unchanged, after protesters torched cars, looted shops, damaged infrastructure and clashed with police on Saturday night.

The Paris police chief said it was too early to say the unrest had been quashed. “There was evidently less damage, but we will remain mobilised in the coming days. We are very focused; nobody is claiming victory,” Laurent Nunez said.

The organisers of the Tour de France cycling race, which started in Bilbao on Saturday, are monitoring the situation. The event will cross into France on Monday.