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The French government said rioting and looting had calmed as it kept up a heavy security deployment to try to quell the unrest that has exploded in the five days since a fatal police shooting of a teenager.

“Quieter night thanks to the resolute action of the police,” interior minister Gérald Darmanin wrote on Twitter early on Sunday. 

Overnight 719 arrests were made compared with 1,311 on Friday night, and the number of fires also more than halved, according to the ministry. About 50 of the 45,000 police officers deployed were injured, far fewer than in earlier nights. 

Reinforcements including units specialising in urban violence with armoured vehicles were sent to Marseille and Lyon where looting in the city centres was particularly bad. Police also blocked off the Champs Élysées in Paris to try to prevent the luxury shops there from being ransacked.

The unrest is a fresh political challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who cancelled a state visit to Germany this week so as to focus on the government’s response. It is the third episode of violent protests he has faced since being elected president in 2017 after the popular gilets jaunes movement that began in 2018 over a proposed fuel tax and protests earlier this year over his unpopular pensions reform.

The killing on Tuesday of Nahel, 17, whose last name has not been made public, stoked a wave of anger that began in Nanterre, the Paris suburb where he lived, and spread to cities and towns across France. 

The fatal shooting, which occurred after the teenager of North African descent had been held at a traffic stop, has exacerbated tensions between the police and young people in low-income areas that are home to minorities and immigrants, who face racial profiling by police and discrimination in housing and job opportunities, according to official studies.

The outcry grew quickly because a video of the incident was shortly afterwards posted to social media, showing no apparent immediate threat to the two officers who were trying to stop the teenager’s car. 

Preliminary charges of voluntary homicide have been filed against one of the officers involved and he is in pre-trial detention, a rare step in such cases.

The rioters have often targeted symbols of the state such as town halls and police stations. In a troubling escalation, the home of the mayor of Parisian suburb L’Haÿ-les-Roses was attacked on Saturday night by unidentified individuals who sent a burning car towards the residence. No one was hurt and police are investigating an attempted murder.

The family and friends of Nahel buried him on Saturday in a private funeral at a hilltop cemetery in Nanterre and a ceremony at a nearby mosque. 

The situation in Nanterre, a demographically mixed area that includes the business district La Défense and large high-rises of social housing, was calm as residents went about their daily shopping and ate on sunny café terraces.

“I support the family of Nahel, but I am against the violence and breaking things,” said Yamid Bensoussan, a waiter at a local restaurant. “Most people here feel that way.”

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