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Mourners Bury Slain Teen in France as 45,000 Police are Deployed and 5th Night of Unrest is Quieter

Randy Mancini 12 Jul 2

NANTERRE, France (AP) — Hushed and visibly anguished, hundreds of mourners from France’s Islamic community formed a solemn procession from a mosque to a hillside cemetery on Saturday to bury a 17-year-old whose killing by police has triggered days of rioting and looting across the nation.

Underscoring the gravity of the crisis, President Emmanuel Macron scrapped an official trip to Germany after nights of unrest across France.

The government deployed 45,000 police to city streets across the nation to head off a fifth night of violence. Overnight, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin tweeted that the night had been calmer than previous ones, thanks to “the resolute action of security forces." He put the night's arrest toll at 427.

Some 2,800 people have been arrested overall since the teen's death on Tuesday. Darmanin tweeted late Saturday that 200 riot police had been mobilized in the port city of Marseille, where TV showed footage of police using tear gas as night fell.

Near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, hundreds of police with batons and shields stood restlessly along the Champs-Elysées, several in front of the shuttered Cartier boutique. Posts on social media had called for protests on the grand boulevard but the police presence appeared to discourage any large gatherings.

Earlier in the day at a hilltop cemetery in Nanterre, the Paris suburb where the teen identified only as Nahel was killed, hundreds stood along the road to pay tribute as mourners carried his white casket from a mosque to the burial site. Journalists were barred from the ceremony and in some cases even chased away. Some of the men carried folded prayer rugs.

“Men first,” an official told dozens of women waiting to enter the cemetery. But Nahel’s mother, dressed in white, walked inside to applause and headed toward the grave. Many of the men were young and Arab or Black, coming to mourn a boy who could have been them.

Inside the cemetery gate, the casket was lifted above the crowd and carried toward the grave. The men followed, some holding little boys by the hand. As they left, some wiped their eyes. Police were nowhere to be seen.

The unrest was taking a toll on Macron's diplomatic profile. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier's office said Macron phoned Saturday to request a postponement of what would have been the first state visit by a French president to Germany in 23 years. Macron had been scheduled to fly to Germany on Sunday evening for the visit to Berlin and two other German cities.

Macron’s office said he spoke with Steinmeier and, “given the internal security situation, the president (Macron) said he wishes to stay in France over the coming days."

Nahel was shot during a traffic stop. Video showed two officers at the window of the car, one with his gun pointed at the driver. As the teenager pulled forward, the officer fired once through the windshield. This week, Nahel's mother told France 5 television that she was angry at the officer who shot her son, but not at the police in general.

"He saw a little Arab-looking kid, he wanted to take his life,” she said.