President Emmanuel Macron has urged parents to keep their children off the streets as a wave of violent riots sweeps across France in the wake of the police shooting of a French-Algerian teenager on Tuesday.

Smoke filled the air in cities across the country today, including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse and Lille, as protestors incensed by the killing set fire to cars and buildings, looted shops and clashed with police. 

More than two hundred police were injured and 875 people arrested overnight, authorities said. France’s interior ministry said that bus and tram services would be halted nationwide from 9pm tonight.

Macron, who left an EU summit in Brussels early to attend a crisis cabinet meeting, appealed to “the responsibility of mothers and fathers” to help quell the violence. Many of the rioters are teenagers. 

The President blamed social media for fuelling copycat violence and said that state agencies would ask platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok to remove the most “sensitive content”. 

Such is the intensity of the violence that the Foreign Office has updated its travel advice, warning Brits visiting France that “local transport provision may be reduced” because of the unrest, “some local authorities may impose curfews”, and that “locations and timing of riots are unpredictable.”

The violence was sparked by the shooting of a 17-year-old teenager, named as Nahel M, in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday. He was shot by a traffic police officer after failing to stop when asked to do so. The officer is in custody and faces charges of voluntary manslaughter.

The killing has fanned long-standing resentments among poor, racially-mixed, urban communities in France over repeated incidents of police violence and allegations of systemic racism in recent years.

The apparent trigger-happiness of French police is being traced back to a 2017 change in the law which allows police officers to shoot in five specific instances, including when the driver or occupants of a vehicle ignore an order to stop and are deemed to pose a risk to the officer’s life or physical safety, or other people’s.

Last year, a study showed that fatal police shootings on drivers of moving vehicles had multiplied fivefold since the law was implemented. Of the 39 people killed by police in 2022, 13 were drivers who were shot on the basis that they failed to comply with orders.

Macron is attempting to wrestle back control of the situation. As France smouldered from Lille to Lyon on Wednesday night, the President was attending an Elton John Concert. A picture shows Macron grinning alongside John and their respective partners. The ill-advised snap has done nothing to shake his image as a – in his words – “Jupiterian” President, one who has lost touch with the mortal world. 

And with Nahel’s funeral tomorrow, the prospect of the fierce emotions driving the violence subsiding are slim.

Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at letters@reaction.life