French riots could spread to UK, ex president François Hollande says

Centre-left former president says ‘domino effect’ of social media does not respect borders

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Friday 07 July 2023 19:20 BST
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<p>Francois Hollande was president of France until 2017 </p>

Francois Hollande was president of France until 2017

Britain and other European countries could be hit by riots on the scale France is currently experiencing, Francois Hollande has said.

The former French president said the unrest, initially triggered by killing of Nahel Merzouk by a police officer, had been exacerbated by economic and social problems.

Mr Hollande claimed the riots were in part spreading through a social media “domino effect" and that this would not respect borders.

“Those people who sometimes look at us with a little irony should tell themselves that the same thing could happen there," he told the Times newspaper.

"The images [of the riots] do not only circulate between Paris, Lyon and Marseilles, they also circulate in the towns and cities of the UK, Germany, the US.”

The former Socialist Party head of state, held office from 2012 to 2017, said those taking to the streets had been motivated by "a desire to go and get goods that you cannot buy in ordinary times".

He claimed in his analysis that some participants saw the protests as "an opportunity ... to break into shops and take everything inside".

This urge had been exacerbated by inflation and Covid lockdowns which had caused social dysfunction among some French youth, he said.

Nahel Merzouk, who was 17-years-old, was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop on Tuesday, triggering days of fierce clashes.

More than 700 people were arrested following his funeral on Saturday as police fired tear gas and fought street battles with protestors late into the night in flashpoint Marseilles.

Police initially reported that one officer had shot at the teenager because he was driving his car towards him. But this version of events was quickly contradicted by a video circulating on social media.

London and other cities in England endured days of widespread rioting in 2011 following the shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by police in Tottenham.

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