1,000 Buildings Burnt, 5,600 Vehicles Destroyed, 3,300 Arrests in First Week of France Riots

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TOPSHOT - Smoke rises from a bonfire near a graffiti reading "The police kills" during clashes with police in the streets of Lyon, south-eastern France, on June 30, 2023, three days after a 17-year-old boy was shot in the chest by police at point-blank range in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. A third consecutive night of violence in France sparked by the killing of a teenager by a policeman during a traffic stop has left 249 police and gendarmes injured, the interior ministry announced on June 30, 2023. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP) (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

The huge extent of damage and vandalism caused in nearly a week of nightly riots in France has been dramatically underlined with a summary of recorded burnings so far, with the toll running to thousands of vehicles and buildings.

Ministry of the Interior figures taking account of damage to people and property during the now six nights of riots triggered by the shooting death by a police officer of an Algerian heritage teenager in a Paris suburb at a traffic stop reveals there have been 5,662 vehicle fires so far, reports Le Parisien.

The widespread destruction of vehicles, which as images recorded in the areas of unrest in France attest, include not just private cars but also trucks and buses. Trams have also been targeted by vandals. In one widely-reported case, a large truck was stolen by looters to ram down the doors of a mall to gain access to the merchandise inside. There were 1,919 vehicle fires on Thursday night alone.

This photograph taken on June 30, 2023, shows burnt buses at the Fort d’Aubervilliers bus terminal in front of the future Paris 2024 Olympic swimming venue (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Fire-fighters work on a damaged and burnt Aldi store in the Les Flamants neighbourhood (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

Attacks on public transport is not without its own consequences, particularly for less affluent communities who disproportionately rely on it to get around, a point made by the grandmother of the slain teen at the heart of this unrest. Speaking after images of whole bus depots worth of public transit burnt to the ground circulated, Nahel’s grandmother, Nadia appealed to the public: “Stop and do not riot… I tell the people who are rioting this: Do not smash windows, attack schools or buses. Stop! It’s the mums who are taking the bus, it’s the mums who walk outside.”

Partly through sheer destruction of public transport vehicles but also to protect riders and staff, and to limit mobility of young people during the defacto curfew across France to clamp down on rioting, public transport has been shut down every night. Per Le Figaro, that is to continue this week, with travellers invited to consider their plans in advance to not get stranded.

Damage has not by any means been limited to burnt-out cars and buses, however. As the government figures attest, at least 1,000 buildings have been damaged in the riots. This includes attacks on 254 police stations, as well as dozens of town halls, schools, post offices, and private commercial properties targeted for burning or looting.

While the government was slow to react to the violence at first last week, it eventually appeared to start to get a handle on the situation with an eventual ramping up of the police deployment from 7,000 officers to 45,000 a night. Arrests and recorded damage have fallen nightly over the weekend, say reports, with 157 arrests from Sunday into Monday morning compared to 1,311 from Friday night into Saturday.

There have been 2,354 arrests in total so far. The average age of those being arrested is 17 years old, and 60 per cent have no prior criminal record, Le Parisien reports. 722 police officers have been injured in the riots, although the number of seriously injured is comparatively low.

One fireman is reported to have died over the weekend, and although it is reported he was attempting to put out a car fire in an underground parking lot at the time of his death, authorities haven’t officially linked the fatality to the riots. The firefighter, reported to be just 24 years old, died of a heart attack.

Two restaurant employees seen putting out a fire set by demonstrators (Photo by Telmo Pinto/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

MARSEILLE, FRANCE – JUNE 30: ATM’s are set on fire as people protest against the death of 17-year-old Nahel (Photo by Naseer Turkmani/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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