| 14 April 2024, Sunday |

France unrest: Riots spread, thousands march in memory of shot teenager

On Thursday, President Emmanuel Macron tried to defuse a growing crisis as anger erupted for a third day over the fatal police shooting of a teenager of North African heritage during a traffic check in a Paris neighborhood.

Following a relatively calm street march in memory of the 17-year-old who was shot dead there on Tuesday, protesters set several cars on fire in Nanterre, a working-class village on the western outskirts of Paris.

Television images showed protests setting up road barricades and hurling projectiles at lines of police, who fired back with tear gas. At least one bank was ransacked.

“Vengeance for Nahel,” was scrawled across buildings and bus shelters, referring to the youngster.

Earlier, Macron held a crisis meeting with senior ministers over the shooting. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne afterwards dismissed calls from some political opponents for a state of emergency to be declared.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 40,000 police officers would be deployed across the country – nearly four times the numbers mobilised on Wednesday – including 5,000 in the Paris region in a bid to quell the unrest.

“The response of the state must be extremely firm,” Darmanin said, speaking from the northern town of Mons-en-Baroeul where several municipal buildings were set alight.

The incident has fed longstanding complaints of police violence and systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies from rights groups and within the low-income, racially mixed suburbs that ring major cities in France.

The local prosecutor said the officer involved had been put under formal investigation for voluntary homicide.

Under France’s legal system, being placed under formal investigation is akin to being charged in Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions.

“The public prosecutor considers that the legal conditions for using the weapon have not been met,” Pascal Prache, the prosecutor, told a news conference.

A video shared on social media, verified by Reuters, shows two police officers beside a Mercedes AMG car, with one shooting at the teenage driver at close range as he pulled away. He died shortly afterwards from his wounds.

The officer has acknowledged firing a lethal shot, the prosecutor said, telling investigators he wanted to prevent a car chase, fearing he or another person would be hurt after the teenager allegedly committed several traffic violations.

The Nanterre prosecutor said Nahel was known to police for previously failing to comply with traffic stop orders.

Macron on Wednesday said the shooting was unforgivable. As he convened his emergency meeting he also condemned the unrest.

  • Reuters