France violence: Is it safe to visit Paris and other cities right now?


by Barry Neild and Xiaofei Xu at

With violent and fiery protests gripping Paris and other cities across France in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a teenage boy, many of the millions planning a visit there this summer will be wondering if it’s safe to go ahead with their trip.

Chaos, destruction and confrontations have led to curfews in some towns around the capital. Bus and tram services have faced disruptions with a nationwide shutdown ordered for 9 p.m. on June 30 ahead of what was another night of widespread violence.

As peak travel season gets underway – further boosted by the start of the two-week Tour de France cycle race – the world’s most-watched sporting event – here are some answers to the questions that visitors may be asking.

Areas within some of France’s major cities have erupted in violence for several successive nights after a teenager of Algerian descent named Nahel Merzouk was fatally shot by police — an incident caught on video.

Confrontations between police and protesters began on the night of June 27 in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, where Merzouk was shot, and have since spread to other parts of the capital and several other cities.

Police said at least 2,000 people, many of them minors, have been detained during subsequent nights of unrest. Merzouk’s death appears to have become a flashpoint for anger about racial inequality in France and claims of police discrimination.

Buildings, vehicles and debris have been set alight during the turmoil. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, has been holding crisis talks amid concerns that the country could see a replay of violence in 2005 that led to a state of emergency.

More than 45,000 police and gendarmes were deployed on Sunday night to try to contain the unrest. Officials said just 157 people were arrested and the situation appeared calmer.

Protests began in Nanterre, a suburb of northwestern Paris’ wider metropolitan area. Subsequently there have been protests in other areas around the capital: Bezons, Gennevilliers, Garges-lès-Gonesse, Asnières-sur-Seine, Montreuil, Neuilly-sur-Marne, Clamart and Meudon.

Further out, Trappes, Clergy, Guyancourt and Vigneux-sur-Seine have also been affected.

These are all beyond the “Periphique” ring road that encircles the central Paris “arrondissements,” where most of the main tourist attractions and accommodations are located.

Elsewhere in France, Elite RAID police have also been deployed to key tourist cities Marseille and Bordeaux in the south, as well as the northern cities of Lille — a stop for the Eurostar train from London — and Roubaix.

Limited curfews have been imposed in two towns close to Paris at the center of some of the worst violence.

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