A political debate is now raging in France about the recent violent demonstrations and the reasons why demonstrators are targeting the police and other symbols on a large scale.
Some opposition parties have concluded that the government has lost its grip in poor areas, but dismissed any suggestions of racism, poverty or police brutality.
Some of the parties say most of the intense and widespread protests can be attributed to immigration. These parties argue that the rate at which new arrivals enter the country must be curbed.
Bruno Retailleau, who heads the Republican opposition party in the senate, sparked an uproar when he suggested that the protesters were largely people with a background of immigration.
He argued that the protesters had also undergone “a regression to their ethnic roots”.
The parliamentary leader of the left-wing Unbowed party, Mathilde Panot, denounced Retailleau’s “blatant racism”.
The media commentator Eric Zemmour, who was unsuccessful in his election as president last year, compared the riots to an “ethnic war”.
Widespread protests broke out in this country last week after the 17-year-old Nahel was shot dead by a police officer when he was stopped in a rental car in the residential area of Nanterre.
Since then, more than 3,500 people have already been arrested, infrastructure destroyed, police stations targeted and cars set on fire.
The interior ministry has since revealed that 90% of people arrested during the riots are French citizens.
One of pres. Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet members also pointed out that many of the people arrested are “Kevins”, referring to a name that is particularly popular among the white working class.
Although the protests in France are diminishing by the day, several investigations into the behavior of law enforcement authorities have been launched in the past week.
The defense ministry said on Wednesday it was investigating allegations that masked sailors tackled protesters in the city of Lorient. These sailors were apparently not on duty at the time of the incident.
On Friday, local media published photos of people in masks beating and arresting protesters in this city.
The newspaper Ouest France interviewed a 25-year-old man who said he was a member of the armed forces and that he, along with 30 other colleagues, had decided to intervene to support the police so that the country “does not burn any further”.
Authorities have also started an investigation into the death of a man after he was apparently hit by a police officer’s rubber bullet during riots in Marseille.
A 27-year-old man who was riding a scooter was found dead on Sunday after suffering a suspected heart attack.
A family in the north-east of France also filed a complaint at the weekend in which they accused law enforcement authorities of “deliberate violence” that landed their 25-year-old son in the hospital. He is apparently fighting for his life.
According to the family, Aimene Bahouh, a security guard, was driving with his window open after work on his way to a petrol station when he was “hit in the head by a projectile”.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Macron made a controversial comment about social media’s role in the recent protests.
He suggested that people’s access to social media might be cut off in the future if “things get out of control”.
He and his ministers singled out platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok and Telegram for their role in organizing and distributing footage of the violence.
Olivier Veran, spokesperson for the government, said they are looking at bringing together a multi-party group of legislators to discuss new legislation to regulate social media.
He explained that social media will in no way be banned, but that there may instead be a temporary suspension of certain functions on platforms.