French police said they were “at war” with “savage hordes of vermin” on Friday night as France was rocked by violent waves of riots and looting and about 1,000 more people were arrested.
Two of the country’s top police unions threatened a revolt unless Emmanuel Macron’s government restored order after protests broke out over an officer’s shooting of a teenager outside Paris.
“Today the police are in combat because we are at war. Tomorrow we will enter resistance and the government should be aware of this,” they said.
It came as British travellers were warned about the risk of curfews and travel restrictions due to the spiralling upheaval and vandalism around France.
A domestic intelligence note seen by Le Monde has warned riots could become increasingly “widespread” and go on for “the coming nights”.
The French government announced on Friday that all major public gatherings that could “pose a risk to public order” would be banned. Various rock concerts have been pulled. Some 45,000 police were deployed.
The Interior Ministry said 994 arrests were made during Friday night, with more than 2,500 fires. The night before, 917 people were arrested nationwide, 500 buildings targeted, 2,000 vehicles burned and dozens of stores ransacked.
While the number of overnight arrests was the highest yet, there were fewer fires, cars burned and police stations attacked around France than the previous night, according to the Interior Ministry. Gerald Darmanin, France’s interior minister, claimed the violence was of “much less intensity”.
Hundreds of police and firefighters have been injured, including 79 overnight, but authorities have not released injury tallies for protesters.
Protests have continued into a fourth night, with rioters in Paris on Saturday night setting fire to a bus and clashing with police. Unrest has also spread to Lyon and Grenoble.
Meanwhile, security will be beefed up during the upcoming Tour de France bike race, which is due to start in Spain on Saturday.
Mr Macron faced intense pressure on Friday to impose a state of emergency as he called on parents to keep their children at home and blamed video games for “intoxicated” young protesters.
In updated travel advice, the Foreign Office said: “Locations and timing of riots are unpredictable. You should monitor the media, and avoid areas where riots are taking place.”
Minutes later, Mr Darmanin announced that “all buses and tramways” would cease to operate after 9pm in France. Curfews have so far been imposed in the towns of Clamart, Compiègne and Neuilly-sur-Marne.
Geneva’s cross-border public trams and buses were not running across the Swiss frontier into France on Friday evening.
Riots have also spread to French Caribbean territories, including French Guiana, and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.
The new restrictions came after Mr Macron cut short a European Council meeting in Brussels for crisis talks as he said there were “no taboos” on tackling rising anarchy.
Élisabeth Borne, his prime minister, added that “all options” to restore order were on the table, including imposing a state of emergency.
Marine Le Pen, Mr Macron’s main opposition rival, backed the move while Eric Ciotti, head of the conservative Republicans insisted a state of emergency be imposed immediately as “France is burning”.
French security forces have been struggling to contain the riots since the death of 17-year-old Nahem M, shot at point-blank range by a police officer after he was pulled over for traffic offences in Nanterre, a suburb west of Paris. The shooting was filmed and contradicted initial police claims that they had acted in self-defence.
Mr Macron pledged “extra means” and his prime minister approved the use of armoured vehicles and drones to track vandals.
However, in a damning critique, two of France’s top police unions, Alliance Police Nationale and UNSA Police, suggested the response had been far too weak.
“Faced with these savage hordes, calling for calm is no longer sufficient, it must be imposed!,” they wrote, saying they were waging a fight against “vermin” and threatening a revolt.
The Green party called the statement a “threat of sedition” while Leftist figurehead Jean-Luc Mélenchon said: “The political powers must take control of the police.”
The scenes of looting on Thursday night were reminiscent of the 2011 “London riots” sparked by the death of Mark Duggan, a black man who was also shot dead by police.
After crisis talks on Friday, Mr Macron called on parents to keep child rioters off the streets.
“It’s the responsibility of parents to keep them at home,” Mr Macron told reporters. “It’s not the state’s job to act in their place.”
The French president urged social media providers to remove the “most sensitive” content related to the rioting, arguing that graphic footage of vandalism “sparks a form of copycat violence”.
“We sometimes get the feeling that some of them live out in the street the video games that have intoxicated them,” he added.
On Friday a young man died after falling from a roof during an apparent burglary attempt while police in the town of Rouen in northwestern France were busy dealing with protests, authorities said.
The man, around 20, crashed through the roof of a shopping mall while appearing to try to break into a supermarket, police said.
The funeral of Nahel M will be held on Saturday.
In a stinging rebuke, the UN rights office on Friday suggested that this week’s killing of the teenager, who was of North African descent, was “a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement”.
Paris called the claims “totally unfounded”.
Nahel was killed as he pulled away from police who were trying to stop him for a traffic offence.
A video showed two police motorbike officers standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver.
A voice is heard saying: “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”
The police officer then appears to fire as the car slowly drives off.
Laurent-Franck Lienard, the officer’s lawyer, told BFMTV late Thursday that his client had apologised as he was taken into custody.
“The first words he pronounced were to say sorry, and the last words he said were to say sorry to the family,” said Mr Lienard.
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