The violence that swept across many French cities in recent days could not come at a worse time for the government. School and college holidays have started and since most of the rioters are aged between 14 and 18 the possible daytime distraction of education is no longer there.

While Marseille burned the brightest, six vehicles were set alight in Nice on Thursday night. But there was trouble, too, in Antibes, Grasse and La Trinité, where the town hall had its windows broken and several wheelie bins were burned.

Along the Riviera, Cannes was possibly the worst hit, with two municipal rubbish trucks burned, along with one scooter and 28 large green trash containers.

The violence and destruction prompted the Mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, to call on the central government to send troops to certain sites, without naming them, although by implication he had in mind town halls, which are often targeted as a symbol of authority.

As he is also President of the Association of Mayors of France, Mr Lisnard’s words carry weight. His family has roots in Cannes that go back to the fifteenth century.

He said on Friday that order must precede justice: “We cannot passively watch our town halls burn and our stores looted… We must anticipate the worst.”

Mayor Lisnard says he is very worried about the Alpes-Maritimes. “We know very well that in our departement there are thugs who are organising themselves, equipping themselves. I hope that my concerns will not be translated into reality, but we have to anticipate the worst. We receive signals, which are not weak signals, but indications on the ground, which suggest that gangs of thugs are equipping themselves with mortars and other equipment to take action.”

Meanwhile, in multicultural and peaceful Beausoleil, on Monaco’s border, the annual Fête des Terrasses, due to take place on Saturday, July 1, has been cancelled as a preventative measure, and there is some nervousness that the trouble could arrive on the Principality’s doorstep.

Until at least Monday, July 3, buses and trams across France will not run after 21:00.

Saturday morning update:

PHOTO: David Lisnard