Widespread Civil Unrest in France Across the Nation (2023 Jul)

On June 27, in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, a 17-year-old of Algerian descent died as a result of being shot by a police officer, triggering large-scale protests and riots throughout France. The situation escalated to involve numerous cases of arson and looting, with reports of over 3,000 arrests. In Paris, even prominent avenues such as Champs-Élysées saw businesses taking precautionary measures such as boarding up windows to prevent looting.

On July 1, the funeral of the young boy took place, resulting in a temporary lull in the unrest. However, there have been continued calls for gatherings and reports of gunfire via social media, leaving the situation uncertain.

The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a "Notice of Caution Regarding Riots in France" on its overseas safety website, advising citizens to steer clear of the turmoil and be vigilant about the potential for further escalation.

Initially, following the shooting incident, the police claimed that the young boy, who was stopped during an identity check, had moved his car in a way that endangered the officer's life, justifying the use of lethal force. However, subsequently, contradicting video footage spread through social media, showing the officer positioned beside the driver's seat with no apparent risk of being hit by the car, firing at close range towards the boy's chest. This false narrative incited anger among the public. Furthermore, the fact that the deceased teenager had Algerian Arab roots added a racial dimension to the outrage.

This incident brings to mind the riots that occurred in the Paris suburbs in 2005. On October 27, 2005, the deaths of two immigrant teenagers who were being chased by the police, and who had sought refuge in an electrical substation, resulted in nationwide riots that continued for about a month.

A common keyword associated with both this incident and the one in 2005 is "banlieue," which is French for "suburb." The 2005 incident took place in Clichy-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs of Paris, while this incident occurred in Nanterre in the northeastern suburbs of Paris. These suburbs are characterized by housing estates where a significant portion of the underprivileged population resides, often associated with images of "immigration, unemployment, and discrimination." Having lived in Paris for four years myself, I can attest that there is a widespread consensus to avoid these suburban areas due to their reputation for being unsafe.

However, it is essential to note that not all suburbs are impoverished, and the location of this incident, Nanterre, is relatively close to the business district of La Défense and features a well-maintained cityscape. Nevertheless, it is likely that the word "banlieue" triggered associations with "immigrants" among many French people when they heard about this incident.

France has actively received immigrants as a labor force to support its rapid economic growth since the 1960s, and approximately 10% of the population consists of immigrants. Among these immigrants, individuals from North African countries like Algeria and Morocco, former French colonies, are the most prominent. However, many of them have faced poverty, employment discrimination, and cultural differences (as a significant portion of immigrants are Muslims), leading to long-standing grievances. This incident has acted as a catalyst for these accumulated frustrations to erupt, evolving from protests to riots. The immigrant issue lies at the core of the backdrop for such events.

As travel restrictions are being lifted amid the ongoing pandemic, many people may plan trips to France for business or summer vacations. Given the potential for further unrest, it is advisable to stay away from areas affected by turmoil and keep yourself updated with the latest information. Lastly, I will highlight several posts from social media that depict the protests and riots.



In the northern industrial city of Lille, which borders Belgium, objects are being set on fire, and roads are being blocked.


In the historic city of Metz in northeastern France, a fire was set at the "Médiathèque Jean-Macé," a media library.


In Nanteuil, the epicenter of the event, numerous protest demonstrations erupted, and there were instances of shops being looted and set on fire.


A video was posted showing a bus on fire in Noisy-le-Sec, a suburb in the eastern outskirts of Paris.


A clash between protesters and police occurred on the renowned Champs-Élysées avenue, one of the leading tourist destinations in Paris.

❻La Queue-en-Brie

In the southern suburbs of Paris, specifically in La Queue-en-Brie, the residence of the mayor was targeted as an assailant drove a car into the house and set it on fire. The mayor's wife and children were injured when fireworks were thrown at them.


In the northeastern Alsace region of France, the city of Strasbourg witnessed a car set ablaze, leading to an explosive situation.


In Lyon, France's second-largest city, clashes have erupted. It's notable that many individuals, not solely of immigrant backgrounds, have joined the protest demonstrations.


In Toulouse, a central hub of Europe's aerospace industry, we witness the scene of protest participants in flight.


Even in the tourist haven of Nice on the French Riviera, as we enter the full-blown vacation season, clashes between demonstrators and the police continue.

⓫Looting at a Shopping Center in Marseille

In the southern port city of Marseille, scenes of looting at a shopping center have been posted online.

Satoshi Negoro
July 03, 2023

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