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French Riots Subside as Counter Protesters Decry Violence

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin attributed the stark decline in arrests to a sizeable police response.

French authorities said that the riots and unrest plaguing the country for nearly a week had declined considerably over Sunday evening.

The Interior Ministry confirmed it had arrested 160 individuals overnight on Monday morning. In previous days, the number of arrested reached highs of 1,300, according to The New York Times.

Nationwide chaos erupted following the police shooting of Nahel Merzouk, 17, during a traffic stop. The officer remains unidentified but has been placed under investigation.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin attributed the stark decline in arrests to a sizeable police response.

"When you arrest 3,200 people, when the courts put people on trial, when you put on a show of republican force — a fair order, but an order, nonetheless — I think that has largely contributed to this return to calm," he said. France deployed 45,000 police officers and gendarmes across the country on Sunday evening and had done so two nights prior.

Many government officials have rejected the notion that the rioters were motivated by a desire for justice for Merzouk, pointing to the looting of stores and destruction of private property as evidence of bad intent.

"When you loot a Foot Locker, a Lacoste store or a Sephora boutique, there is no political message," said French government spokesman Olivier Véran, per the Times.

French President Emmanuel Macron also condemned the rioters on Saturday, saying "Violence against police stations, schools, town halls, against the Republic, is unjustifiable. Thank you to the police, gendarmes, firefighters and elected officials mobilized. Meditation, Justice and calm must guide the next few hours."

Authorities reported thousands of fires had been set in the course of the riots.

As of Monday, local officials have begun organizing peaceful demonstrations in protest of the rioters.

Related Story: Paris is Burning: 1,300 People Arrested Amid French Riots Over Teen’s Killing by Police

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