NOUMEA: President Emmanuel Macron said Monday that France needed a return to authority “at every level” in response to recent riots sparked by the police shooting of a teenager.
The killing of Nahel M., 17, during a traffic stop last month prompted protests, riots and looting, with many accusing the government of allowing a culture of institutional racism in the police force to fester.
Condemning “the burning of schools, city halls, gyms and libraries” and “the violence of looting,” Macron said: “The lesson I draw from his is order, order, order.”
Speaking on French television during a trip to New Caledonia, Macron added that “order must prevail. There is no freedom without order,” he said.
“Our country needs a return to authority at every level, starting with the family,” he said.
“We must invest massively in our youth to provide them with a framework,” Macron said.
The president also reiterated his previous criticism of the role of social networks during the riots and looting, saying “public digital order” was needed “to stop excesses.”
He said many young people used social media to organize meetups and riots, and even “to enter into competition with each other” during the riots.
Of the around 1,300 people being prosecuted for their alleged role in the riots, nearly half are under 18.
The most intense urban violence since 2005 sparked a debate about law and order, immigration, racism and police brutality.
Following a reshuffle of his cabinet, Macron warned last week that the riots had highlighted “a risk of fragmentation, of deep division, of the nation.”
There is a “need for authority and respect,” he told Friday’s cabinet meeting, and asked the new government “to draw the lessons from what happened, and provide sound answers.”
New Caledonia is the first stop of Macron’s Pacific trip which also includes Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea and during which he is expected to lay out a “French alternative” for a region marked by China-US tensions, his office said last week.