French Riots Seen Costing €1 Billion as Macron Meets Mayors

President Emmanuel Macron will meet with more than 200 mayors to assess the riots that have rocked France as a massive police deployment led to a continued drop in the level of unrest overnight.

(Bloomberg) — President Emmanuel Macron will meet with more than 200 mayors to assess the riots that have rocked France as a massive police deployment led to a continued drop in the level of unrest overnight.

French employers’ lobby Medef estimated the cost of violence since the police shooting of Nahel, a 17-year-old of North African descent, last Tuesday at more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion), with 200 businesses looted, and 300 bank branches and 250 tobacco stores destroyed. The estimate covers businesses and doesn’t include damage to schools, town halls or community centers.

The violence has underscored long-running tensions over racism and inequality in the country, especially in ethnically mixed neighborhoods around cities and towns. The opposition at both ends of the political spectrum has seized on the crisis as evidence that the government is failing to ensure public safety and narrow economic disparity.

“The videos of the riots that circulated around the world hurt the image of France,” Medef head Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux told Le Parisien newspaper. “It’s always difficult to say if the impact will be long lasting, but there will certainly be a drop in reservations this summer, although the season had seemed promising. Many have already been canceled.”

Macron, who met with police and fire fighters overnight in a show of support, will meet with the mayors of more than 200 towns hit by violence later on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

The number of arrests continued to fall — dropping to 72 from a peak of more than 1,300 on Friday — as authorities maintained a deployment of 45,000 police and other forces across the country for a fourth night.

The number of vehicles burned or buildings damaged has dropped each night since peaking on Thursday, government data show. All told, close to 3,500 people have been arrested since unrest began a week ago.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire met with store owners in the town of Arpajon south of Paris to discuss the fallout from the crisis. Speaking to reporters, he said French insurers have agreed to extend the delay for store owners to make damage claims resulting from the riots to 30 days from five.

Insurers will also consider reducing the deductibles on claims for those independent businesses worst hit by the violence and have pledged to pay compensation as quickly as possible, Le Maire said. The government may in addition scrap social and fiscal charges for shop owners who’ve been the most impacted, he added.

“If your store has been burned to the ground and a life’s work has been reduced to ashes, the state must be by your side,” he said. “We’ll do everything necessary so that economic activity can calmly pick up again in our country as quickly as possible.”

In addition to going after official buildings, one attack in particular brought widespread condemnation — the ramming of a burning car into the home of the mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses, a Paris suburb. His wife and two young children escaped the house through a back door.

The unrest is another political minefield for the French president after he pushed through an increase in France’s retirement age this year that was preceded by months of strikes and protests. Images of riot police once again battling in the streets further tarnish the country’s reputation, potentially adding to the economic toll just as the government faces pressure to speed up debt reduction.

— Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV) July 4, 2023


Labor unrest and street demonstrations happen regularly in France but have taken on a more intense and confrontational tone in recent years, reflecting divisions within French society. Before the pension protests and the pandemic, the so-called Yellow Vest movement caused widespread property damage. 

Nahel, whose last name has officially been withheld by authorities, was buried Saturday in Nanterre, his hometown where he was shot at close range in a car. The officer who fired the gun has been charged with murder and is in pre-trial detention. Laurent-Franck Lienard, a lawyer for the officer, told Europe 1 radio that the policeman believed he needed to shoot.

–With assistance from William Horobin.

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