The death of a 17-year-old teenager at the hands of a police officer has led to several days of demonstrations, clashes with officers and acts of vandalism.
France, which was recently rocked by violent protests against controversial pension reform, was again witnessed by violent urban riots this week. Violent clashes between demonstrators and the Police, large fires, looting, destruction and vandalism are the consequences of the massive protests caused by the death of a minor at the hands of an agent.
This is what you need to know about the current situation in France.
Who is the victim and why did the riots occur?
The deceased young man was a 17-year-old descendant of migrants from Algeria and Morocco. His name was Nahel and he was shot by a policeman at a traffic stop in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris.
The young man was driving a Mercedes in a bus lane, breaking traffic laws. When the Police noticed that an offender was circulating, they tried to stop him at an intersection with the sirens and the lights on. However, Nahel did not agree to the demands of the police and kept driving, endangering the lives of a pedestrian and a cyclist. However, the young man was unable to escape and the officers caught up with him in a traffic jam.
According to prosecutor Pascal Prache, the two police officers drew their weapons, approached the car and demanded that the young man turn off the engine. However, Nahel tried to get away from the place and one of the officers shot him at close range through the car window. The bullet pierced the young man’s left arm and chest, killing him. It was not the first incident related to a traffic violation committed by Nahel.
The murder of the young man fed numerous complaints about police violence and systemic racism among law enforcement, expressed by the French. Despite the fact that these accusations became one of the reasons for the protests, the mother of the deceased minor has spoken out in favor of not condemning the police system.
“I don’t blame the police. I’m only angry with one person: the man who killed my son. […] It’s not the system, it’s a man,” he said. The woman asked that Justice be “really firm” against the agent, who was arrested the same day of the murder and is now in pretrial detention.
Consequences of the riots
The riots began this Tuesday a few hundred meters from the victim’s home, in Nanterre, and quickly turned into clashes between police and protesters.
- There were acts of vandalism at bus stops, garbage containers on the roads, cars and urban furniture were set on fire, in addition to erecting barricades that were later also set on fire. On the first day, at least 24 people were detained by the Police.
In the second day of protests the clashes became even more violent and spread to various cities, such as Toulouse, Nantes, La Courneuve, Nice, Lille, among others.
- There were large fires and attacks against police stations and police vehicles. Thus, protesters in the Essonne department set a bus on fire, causing a disruption to transport services, and even tried to break into one of the largest prisons in France, located in the municipality of Fresnes, to free some prisoners. At least 150 people were arrested.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country during the third day of riotsturning the protest into a national issue.
- Protesters nearly 500 public and private buildings were set on fire. The rioters also attacked 79 police establishments, police stations and gendarmerie. were accounted for more than 3,800 fires on public roads and 1,900 vehicles were burned.
- Among the damaged facilities are a training pool under construction for the next Olympic Games in Paris, in 2024, and the largest municipal library in the city of Marseille.
- French authorities mobilized 40,000 agents and important technical and technological means to counteract the growing violence. Thus, that same night, the Police arrested 667 people. The clashes left 249 injured policemen and gendarmes.
In it fourth day of protests, Despite stricter measures, there was an increase in cases of vandalism in France’s largest cities.
- 1,350 vehicles were burned, fires and damage were recorded in 234 buildings, while 2,560 fires broke out on public roads. The demonstrators also attacked 31 police stations, 16 municipal police facilities and 11 Gendarmerie barracks.
- 45,000 law enforcement officers were mobilized along with a display of armored vehicles of the Gendarmerie and 29 helicopters. The security forces have carried out 1,311 arrests.
How did Macron react?
The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, reacted to the incident the day after the murder of the minor. “We share the feeling and pain of the family and friends of young Nahel. […] The case was immediately taken to court.” wrote the president on his Twitter account.
However, the violence continued and that forced Macron to leave Brussels, where an EU summit was being held, and return to the country. In addition, this Saturday Macron postponed his visit to Germany scheduled for July 2-4, due to the difficult situation in the country.
In the end, Macron lashed out at the protesters and described as “unacceptable” that the death of a young person is used to justify violence. “I condemn in the strongest terms all those who are taking advantage of this moment to try to create disorder and attack our institutions,” he said.
On the other hand, Macron asserted that social networks and video game platforms “are playing An important paper“ in the riots of the last few days and that violence is being organized online.
Despite the massive protests, this Wednesday the president attended with his wife, Brigitte Macron, the elton john concert in Paris, provoking criticism by politicians and the public.
The UN calls for the problems of racism to be taken seriously
The UN has also reacted to events in France, calling on Paris to take issues of racism seriously. The spokeswoman for the UN Office for Human Rights, in a press conference, stated that the agency “asks the authorities to guarantee that the use of force by the Police to deal with violent elements during the demonstrations, always respect the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discriminationcaution and responsibility”.
In turn, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that Paris considers accusations of racism as “totally unfounded”. She stressed that “France and its law enforcement agencies fight resolutely against racism and all forms of discrimination.”