France tells rioters to go home

“Could you just go home?”

It was a weary-sounding question, directed by a middle-aged French woman at a gang of youths pushing past her, as a mass of defence shield-wielding riot-police chased after them.

It was the early hours of Sunday morning on the Champs Elysées – the tourist shoppers’ paradise in central Paris. The air was acrid with tear gas. Night number five of the street riots that have engulfed France since the killing of Nahel, a French Algerian teen, by a policeman on a Parisian housing estate.

My colleagues and I were filming the chaos all around when it struck me just how many people in France have posed the same question as the irritated lady.

The acts of violence across France dropped considerably overnight, the rioters shamed perhaps by Nahel’s grandma, who took to French TV to appeal to the youngsters to calm down.

I spoke to another family member who asked to remain anonymous because tensions are still running so high. Visibly agitated, she told me they ache for the rioters to stay home.

Nahel’s relatives never called for acts of hate or theft or destruction in his name, she insists. In fact, they all worry the violence could distract from what they do want: justice. For them, that means the police officer who killed Nahel, sentenced and imprisoned.

Emmanuel Macron is fervently hoping the protesters – and tag-along vandals – stay home. For so many reasons.

His second term as French president has been peppered by civil unrest – over pension reform and now, Nahel’s death. It’s not exactly improving his popularity ratings.

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