(LifeSiteNews) — After a sixth night of violence, calls are growing for French President Emmanuel Macron to declare a state of emergency.
Widespread media reports are suggesting that the riots in France – which some police and commentators have described as a state of war – are beginning to subside.
This message is one which follows a weekend in which a local mayor has suffered an attack on his home, and the death of a fireman fighting a blaze in Paris.
Mayor’s home attacked, wife and child injured
In the early hours of Sunday morning, rioters drove a flaming car into the home of a Parisian local politician. The attack took place in L’Haÿ-les-Roses, some five miles from the center of Paris.
“It was an attempted assassination of incredible cowardice,” said Republican mayor Vincent Jeanbrun, who was not home at the time of the attempt on his life.
His wife and two children, aged 5 and 7, were asleep in the house whilst he was at the town hall – as he had been for the previous three nights of rioting. The town hall had been repeatedly attacked and therefore reinforced with barbed wire and security barriers.
At around 1:30am the attackers rammed the gates to his home with a car, gaining access to the property – before setting fire to both this car and that of the Jeanbrun family.
The intention, he said, was “to burn down the house in which my wife and children slept.”
His wife and young children fled the house, whereupon they were pursued through the garden by the arsonists.
Under “mortar fire,” Jeanbrun’s wife suffered a “probable” broken leg whilst seeking to protect their children – one of whom was injured in the escape.
According to FranceInfo, an inquiry into an attempted assassination has been opened following the attack.
Following the deaths of the youths which sparked the riots of 2005, the African heritage footballer Lilian Thuram made a statement blaming the then president, Nicolas Sarkozy, for the youths’ deaths.
The current disorder followed the death of Nahel M., the youth of Algerian heritage who died whilst trying to drive away from a police check. In the immediate aftermath, footballer Kylian Mbappe, himself of African heritage, described Nahel as “an angel who has gone too soon.”
This “angel” had 15 entries in his criminal record, and had been given notice for five refusals to comply with police since 2021 – with his latest offense recorded days before his death.
On the weekend of June 22-23, he was arrested and taken into custody for refusal to comply with police, with a court summons being issued for an appearance in September 2023.
In addition, he was also charged in the past with receiving stolen goods, driving without insurance, driving with false number plates, “rebellion against the police,” and twice for selling drugs in early 2023.
In support of Mbappe’s remarks, a second footballer – who played alongside him in the French national team – said (via Twitter’s automatic translation): “A bullet in the head … It’s always for the same people that being in the wrong leads to death. For Naël, for his mother.”
Une balle dans la tête…C'est toujours pour les mêmes qu'être en tort conduit à la mort. Pour Naël, pour sa maman 🕊️☝🏾 https://t.co/pnyWerSDFv
— Magic Mike Maignan (@mmseize) June 28, 2023
“Magic Mike” is also of African heritage. These remarks indicate a polarized debate in an increasingly polarized nation. The truth of the incident itself has been distorted in an inflammatory manner.
Shortly after the death of Nahel, claims appeared online that the police who shot him had shouted, “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”
Later reports, which examined the audio of the incident, instead heard the police warning Nahel with, “Stop the car! Hands behind your head!”
🚨 Mort de Nahel : selon l'IGPN, les policiers en cause n'ont pas crié "Je vais te mettre une balle dans la tête" et "Shoote-le" mais plutôt "Coupe ! Les mains derrière la tête". Ce serait donc une sommation et pas une menace. @infofrance2 pic.twitter.com/MFxdiFnmPx
— Telematin (@telematin) July 3, 2023
The division is highlighted by online campaigns of financial support. So far, a crowdfunding operation has raised over a million euros for the family of the policeman involved in the shooting of Nahel.
Le MILLION ! pic.twitter.com/HS4ndosAtH
— Damien Rieu (@DamienRieu) July 3, 2023
By contrast, around 200,000 euros have been raised for the deceased criminal’s family.
Le Pen calls for state of emergency
President Macron held an emergency meeting with government leaders Sunday night. Further meetings with members of Parliament and regional mayors are planned for Monday and Tuesday.
Calls are increasing for him to declare a state of emergency, with that of Mayor Jeanbrun joining one made in a video address to the nation by the major opposition leader Marine Le Pen.
The head of the Rassemblement National, Le Pen lost the previous presidential election to Macron in the second round.
Speaking on June 30, she describes the situation in France as an “endemic state of disorder,” saying that no event, however emotional, can justify a state of permanent anarchy.
Statement by Marine Le Pen, leader of the populist National Rally party. pic.twitter.com/bbW18szxfK
— National Conservative (@NatCon2022) July 2, 2023
Speaking in defense of the Fifth Republic, which is the current constitution and the legal embodiment of the idea of France, she condemned those “extremist forces … who directly or indirectly … connive with violence to drive the country down the terrible path of disorder.”
She demands that the president consult her party, together with all others in the French National Assembly, and that he declare a state of emergency to restore order.
Emergency without end?
France has a history of similar violence, and has declared several states of emergency in the last eighteen years.
France suffered three weeks of race riots in 2005, following the deaths by accidental electrocution of two African youths, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, who were hiding with others from police in an electricity substation.
A state of emergency was pronounced the following day, November 8. More recently, another was declared in 2015 following the murder of 130 Parisians by Islamic militants.
This lasted for two years, and was the longest state of emergency seen since the Algerian war ended in 1962.
It was ended in 2017 with measures to combat terrorism that some argue have led to a permanent state of emergency in France. It can be argued that not only did the state of emergency never end – being followed by another declared over COVID-19 – but that the adoption into law of many of its measures leaves few significant powers remaining were one to be declared.
In brief, the relationship of the state to emergency has been very close for well over a decade. Measures have been taken to limit media and movement, with patchy outages reported on social media and more stringent public transportation shutdowns. In Marseilles, for example, France 24 reported on Saturday that “authorities there went a step further by halting all urban transport from 6:00pm, including metros, and banning all protests up until Sunday.”
In addition, “a number of towns have imposed overnight curfews.”
With suspected limitations on social media, curbs on movement and effective house arrest at night, it is difficult to see how a declaration could mitigate what has already become a nation of emergencies.
Nevertheless, 69 percent of French citizens appear to support such a declaration, according to a poll published by Ifop on July 3.
The Leftwing LFI at 41 percent shows the lowest support, followed by the Greens at 51. Almost two-thirds of Socialists (62 percent) support a state of emergency, with Macron’s “Renaissance” at 82 percent, beating the 76 percent of the supporters of Marine Le Pen.
Highest of all is the conservative Republicans, whose 90 percent reflects a dedication to the Constitution of the Fifth Republic which many nationalists do not share, seeing it as a Liberal idea which is itself inseparable from the chaos it has created.
There are many on the populist right who refuse to rescue this Republic, as is indicated by almost a quarter of Le Pen’s own supporters.
The divisions in France are no longer confined to those of race, nor of those keen to exploit the issue for political or personal gain. This is a crisis that appears to be insoluble from the point of view of the current political settlement.
It is one whose resolution – or appeasement – looks likely to determine the fate of France.
Europe and the wider Western world is watching.