© Reuters. French police secure the neighborhood after the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old boy killed by a French policeman during a traffic stop, in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, France, June 28, 2023. REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
By Layli Foroudi and Noémie Olive
NANTERRE, France (Reuters) – Major French cities experienced a third night of rioting on Thursday as President Emmanuel Macron fought to contain growing unrest sparked by the fatal police shooting of an ethnic teenager Algerian and Moroccan during a roadside check.
Forty thousand police were due to deploy across France – almost four times the number mobilized on Wednesday – but there were few signs that the government’s calls for a de-escalation of violence would quell widespread anger.
In Nanterre, the working-class town on the western outskirts of Paris where 17-year-old Nahel M. was shot dead on Tuesday, protesters torched cars, barricaded streets and threw projectiles at police following a peaceful vigil .
Protesters scrawled “Vengeance for Nahel” on buildings and bus shelters and, as night fell, a bank was set on fire before firefighters extinguished it.
Local authorities in Clamart, 8 km from the center of Paris, have imposed a night curfew until Monday.
Valérie Pécresse, who heads the Paris region, said all bus and tram services would be halted after 9 p.m. after some were set on fire the night before.
National police said Thursday evening that officers were dealing with new incidents in Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille, including fires and fireworks.
In Marseille, France’s second-largest city, police fired tear gas canisters during clashes with young people in the tourist hotspot of the Old Port, the city’s main newspaper, La Provence, reported.
“The state’s response must be extremely firm,” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said earlier, speaking from the northern town of Mons-en-Baroeul, where several municipal buildings have been destroyed. been set on fire.
The incident has fueled long-running complaints of police brutality and systemic racism within law enforcement from rights groups and in the low-income and racially mixed suburbs that surround France’s major cities.
The local prosecutor said the officer involved had been formally investigated for intentional homicide and would be remanded in custody.
In the French judicial system, being indicted is akin to being charged in Anglo-Saxon courts.
“The public prosecutor considers that the legal conditions for the use of the weapon are not met,” said Pascal Prache, the public prosecutor, during a press conference.
The teenager was shot during the morning rush hour on Tuesday. He first failed to stop after the Mercedes AMG he was driving was spotted in a bus lane. Two police officers caught up with the car in a traffic jam.
As the car attempted to drive away, an officer fired point blank shots through the driver’s window. Nahel died of a single shot to the left arm and chest, said Nanterre public prosecutor Pascal Prache.
The officer admitted to firing a fatal shot, the prosecutor said, telling investigators he wanted to prevent a car chase, fearing he or someone else could be injured after the teen allegedly committed multiple code violations of the road.
The officer’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Lienard, said his client had aimed for the driver’s leg but was hit, causing him to be shot in the chest.
“He had to be arrested, but obviously (the officer) didn’t want to kill the driver,” Lienard told BFM TV, adding that his client’s detention was being used to try to calm the rioters.
Nahel was known to police for previously failing to comply with traffic control orders, Prache said.
Macron said Wednesday the shooting was unforgivable. As he called his emergency meeting, he also condemned the unrest.
During a march in Nanterre in memory of Nahel, participants denounced what they perceived as a culture of police impunity and a failure to reform law enforcement in a country that has seen waves of riots and protests against the behavior of the police.
Thousands filled the streets. Atop a flatbed truck, the teen’s mother waved to the crowd wearing a white t-shirt that read “Justice for Nahel” and the date of her death.
“I have nothing against the police. I have something against a person, the one who killed my son. He didn’t have to kill my son,” Nahel’s mother told France 5 television after the incident. market.
The unrest has revived memories of the 2005 riots that rocked France for three weeks and forced then-President Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency.
This wave of violence erupted in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and spread across the country following the death of two young people electrocuted in an electrical substation while hiding from the police .
Two officers were acquitted in a trial ten years later.
Tuesday’s killing is the third fatal shooting in roadside checks in France so far in 2023, down from a record 13 last year, a national police spokesman said.
There were three such killings in 2021 and two in 2020, according to a Reuters tally, which shows the majority of victims since 2017 were black or of Arab descent.
Karima Khartim, a municipal councilor in Blanc Mesnil northeast of Paris, said people’s patience was at an end.
“We have experienced this injustice many times before,” she said.