Cars torched and buildings vandalised: Third night of riots in French city after police shooting

Dozens of cars and several buildings were set alight Friday in a third night of rioting in western France over the fatal police shooting of a young man, the latest flare-up of tension between police and youths in poor suburbs with large immigrant populations.

Cars torched and buildings vandalised: Third night of riots in French city after police shooting
A ransacked store is pictured in the Breil neighborhood of Nantes on Thursday. Photo: AFP
An officer has been detained for questioning over the killing of the man identified by media as Aboubakar F. — a death which has further strained relations in deprived urban areas where residents frequently complain of police brutality.
Fifty-two cars were torched overnight in Nantes, including the mayor's personal vehicle, and eight buildings were damaged by fire or vandalism, including a bar in a shopping centre which was destroyed by arson, officials said.
There were also arson attempts on a high school and a petrol station, but no injuries were reported and the violence subsided at around 6:00 am (0400 GMT).
Four people were taken in by police including a 14-year-old found with a petrol can and matches, and as on previous nights a police van was struck with a molotov cocktail.
There have been more than a dozen arrests over the riots, including one in the Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse where the slain 22-year-old grew up, after youths threw Molotov cocktails at police and set dumpsters alight early Thursday.
On Thursday evening, around 1,000 people marched in Nantes calling for “justice for Abou” and demanding that the circumstances of his death be 
revealed (see image below).
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe visited Nantes and condemned the riots, promising “the fullest transparency” about the man's death.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said the government would do everything in its power “to calm the situation … it is our duty to restore calm to Nantes, as we wish to do countrywide.” 
Aboubakar F. was under surveillance as part of a drug-trafficking investigation when he was stopped by police on Tuesday.
He was also wanted for robbery and other offences.
Police in Nantes said he was not carrying ID, gave a false name, and they attempted to arrest him.
Around 1,000 people marched in Nantes on Thursday night calling for “justice for Abou”. Photo: AFP
Nantes prosecutor Pierre Sennes said the driver then “apparently tried to escape the search by quickly reversing”.
Police sources said he drove into one of the officers, prompting his partner to open fire — but a witness said the car was halted when the driver was hit in the neck by a single bullet.
The officer who fired the shot has been detained by a police oversight body, the IGPN, which is investigating the killing.
Sennes said he was being held on suspicion of “voluntary violence by a person in authority leading to unintentional death”.
'Burning our neighbourhoods'
Local residents have been deeply upset by the scale of the destruction caused by the riots.
“It's too much, I don't understand it,” Yamina, a kebab-shop owner, said in shock as she inspected her burnt-out restaurant and car.
“They are burning our neighbourhoods when we are already poor,” said another woman who did not want to give her name, though she also expressed anger at the police who “are never there”.
After the violence on Tuesday night. Photo: AFP
A woman who filmed the incident and wished to remain anonymous, said “there were no police behind the car, he didn't hit anyone. There was only the one 
The riot-hit districts of Nantes all have a history of gang violence.
In January, the government vowed a crackdown on urban violence after a shocking video emerged of a policewoman being beaten by a crowd in the Paris suburbs on New Year's Eve.
A parliamentary report released Tuesday showed high suicide rates within the police and warned low morale is widespread in the force.
In 2005, two teenagers of African origin were electrocuted while hiding from officers in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, sparking nationwide riots.
Anger over heavy-handed policing bubbled over again last year when a young black man in another Paris suburb suffered severe anal injuries during his arrest which were caused by a truncheon.
After the violence on Tuesday night. Photo: AFP

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French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region

The French city of Nantes is to hold a referendum on exiting the Pays-de-la-Loire region and becoming part of Brittany instead.

French town of Nantes votes for referendum on exiting Pays-de-la-Loire region
Photo: AFP

On Friday the town council of Nantes voted in favour of requesting the French government organise a referendum so local people can have their say about whether they wish to remain in the Pays-de-la-Loire region or become part of Brittany – a region that many say the town has more historic and cultural connections to.

The vote on Friday was carried by 56 votes and concerns whether the département of Loire-Atlantique – which contains Nantes – should move regions.

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The vote follows a petition in 2018 which gathered 105,000 signatures.

Nantes mayor Johanna Rolland said: “This strong citizen mobilisation cannot be ignored. It reflects the aspiration of our fellow citizens to be consulted to a greater extent, in a context of essential revitalisation of our democracy.”

The desire of people in the Loire-Atlantique to become Breton isn't new.
The départment was part of Brittany until World War II, when it was separated and made part of the neighbouring region by the Vichy government. That region eventually became the Pays-de-la-Loire in 1955.
The issue has been simmering since then and pro-Breton voices have become louder in recent years as they hope to take advantage of a law that allows départments to chose which region they belong to via a referendum.
The town, which is the historic seat of the Dukes of Brittany, also declared its intention to  “set up a permanent pluralist body to engage in a genuine consultation with the State on the organisation of this referendum, organise an in-depth debate on the issues and consequences of a redistribution in order to feed the citizen debate, and formulate proposals to strengthen cooperation between Nantes and the other Breton territories”. 
However the referendum will have to be approved by both the national government and the regional authorities.

France's regions were reorganised in 2016 and several were merged to create the current 13 regions of mainland France.

Brittany currently covers four départements – Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère and Morbihan – while Pays-de-la-Loire covers Loire-Atlantique, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne, Sarthe and Vendée. Nantes is currently the largest town in the region.