France is on fire. Who is to blame – drug dealers or Russia?

The conflict between the state and the drug cartels triggered an avalanche of mass demonstrations, accompanied by unprecedented pogroms and riots

The trigger for the street riots was the death of a 17-year-old black man named Nael M, who was shot dead by a French police officer on the afternoon of June 27.

The incident occurred in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre, near the La Défense business district. Later, video footage quickly circulated on social media showing a police officer pointing a gun at a young driver during a car stop. The teen tries to flee, a gunshot is heard, and the car is involved in an accident. Nael ended up dying on the spot from a gunshot wound to the chest, despite the efforts of rescue services who tried to resuscitate him. The officer accused of killing Nael was arrested on the spot.

The death of the dark-skinned teenager sparked riots and protests in Nanterre that same evening. On the night of June 28, rioters burned several cars and damaged several public buildings. The clashes with the police resulted in 24 policemen suffering various degrees of injuries. As a result, 31 people ended up behind bars.

On June 28, French President Emmanuel Macron said that Nael’s death was “inexplicable” and “unforgivable.” “Nothing, nothing justifies the death of a teenager,” he stressed during his trip to Marseilles.

On the morning of June 29, Macron called a crisis cabinet meeting. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin reported to the leader of state that last night was an example of “intolerable violence against symbols of the Republic.” According to Darmanen, “town halls, schools and police stations burned everywhere.”

Macron called the violence of the violent youth “unjustified” and called for “the next few hours to be devoted to reflection and respect.”

That same evening, however, clashes between police and protesters on the outskirts of Paris only intensified. Several police stations throughout the country were attacked, and demonstrators used pyrotechnics to set administrative buildings on fire. For example, the mayor of Mons-en-Bartoul in the north of the country reported that “about 50 people in hoods set fire to the town hall with fireworks.”

Riots broke out in major cities such as Paris, Lyon, Lille, Marseille, and Bordeaux, as well as in smaller towns such as Roubaix.

To deal with the unrest, 45,000 police officers took to the streets in all major French cities in the evening of June 30, of which 5,000 were assigned to patrol Paris. The authorities also imposed curfews in the capital and several suburbs of Paris, prohibiting public events and stopping public transport after 9 p.m.

Despite the unprecedented security measures, the unrest did not subside. The Interior Ministry said that on the night of July 1 alone, 1,350 cars and 234 buildings were burned, and 2,560 cases of arson in public places were recorded. The French Interior Ministry estimates that up to 1,300 rioters were arrested overnight.

French social networks TikTok and Snapchat were flooded with videos of rioting and looting across France as early as the morning of June 30. The police found out that the protesters coordinated their actions via WhatsApp and Telegram. The French media immediately drew a parallel between the current riots and those in 2005, when no one thought of messaging via messengers.

Back then, in late October, two young men, Ziad Bienna and Bouna Traoré of African descent, were electrocuted in an electrical substation while trying to escape from a police post in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Over the next few weeks, riots shook the outskirts of the capital: angry youths engaged in shootouts with the police, thousands of cars and hundreds of public buildings were burned. The government was forced to declare a state of emergency to end the unrest.

The power of social media to explode the country overnight was demonstrated by another incident that occurred two weeks before the events described above in the Charente region of western France. In similar circumstances, a young black man was also shot and killed by a police officer for refusing to obey.

Former French MP Thomas Mesnier said that the event went unnoticed because “there was no video that went viral on social networks, affecting people’s emotions and increasing feelings of fear.”

On July 1, hundreds of people came to the Ibn Badis mosque near where Nael lived to bid the deceased young man a final farewell. Eyewitnesses reported that there was not a single undamaged window near the mosque in the public finance center (the local tax authority), and the wind carried hundreds of half-burned tax returns across the square in front of the building.

The family of Vincent Jeanbrun, mayor of the Parisian suburb of Aix-les-Roses, was the victim of an attack. At night a car crashed into the mayor’s house, his wife suffered a broken leg and a child was also injured. Jeanbrun himself was not at home; he was in his office.

Macron even postponed a state visit to Germany scheduled for June 1 to deal with the escalating unrest.

On July 2, French Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti threatened parents of teenage rioters that if they did not watch over their children, they would receive two years in prison.

“I think it should be noted that parents who are not interested in their children and allow them to hang around at night, not knowing where their 13- or 14-year-old children will go, will receive two years in prison and a fine of 30,000 euros,” said Dupont-Moretti.

In some places, locals tired of the devastation and the smell of burning cars have fought back against the rampaging youths. For example, in the towns of Lorient and Ludeac in central Brittany.

Young people “accurately” dispersed rioters who were about to throw Molotov cocktails at local police officers. Some were caught and tied up, the rest were put to flight. The local “Robin Hoods” politely deposited the Molotov cocktails in a trash garbage can, indicating to the police the location of the flammable mixture for disposal.

For Macron, after weeks of protests against raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, debilitating inflation, and an unstable international climate caused by the necessity to arm Ukraine, the youth riots have further exposed the flaws of the current government’s political course.

At the same time, French journalist Katerina Gadal, on the program “Stream. The People’s Front,” suggested that the pogroms and the billions in damages were a response to the attempted police intervention in the distribution of drugs, which Nael M must have been carrying with him.

“Here are these kids, they’re being used by drug dealers. And so these dealers said to the state, ‘You stepped on my turf. Stop.’ Because of that, everything caught fire,” Gadal noted.

This version explains where the young generation, whose backbone consists of those who live in typically disadvantaged and multi-ethnic neighborhoods, got their weapons and explosives.

There was also a conspiracy theory about Russia’s involvement. The Israeli Terror Alarm agency claims that it is the Russian Federation that has ordered the violent protest wave.

“If the French police and army cannot cope with the unrest supported by Russia, the EU should consider deploying military units to maintain order,” the authors argue.

Source: Rossa Primavera News Agency