Fresh unrest in France as anger simmers over police shooting

World News
2023-06-29 | 00:56
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Fresh unrest in France as anger simmers over police shooting
Fresh unrest in France as anger simmers over police shooting

Unrest erupted in France for a second night in a row as balaclava-clad protesters burning rubbish and shooting fireworks clashed with security forces in violent demonstrations over the fatal shooting of a teenager by police.

Nahel M., 17, was shot in the chest at point-blank range on Tuesday morning in an incident that has reignited debate in France about police tactics long criticised by rights groups over the treatment of people in low-income suburbs, particularly ethnic minorities.

The teenager's mother called for a march on Thursday in tribute to her only child.

As night fell Wednesday, clashes spread from neighborhoods around the capital to other French cities, including Toulouse, Dijon and Lyon.

Around 2,000 riot police were deployed to Paris and its surrounding suburbs, with police there reporting 77 arrests by 2:00 am (0000 GMT) Thursday.

In the western Hauts-de-Seine region of Paris, where the shooting took place, a second consecutive night of clashes erupted as masked demonstrators dressed in black launched fireworks and firecrackers at security forces.

A thick column of smoke billowed above the area where AFP journalists saw more than a dozen cars and garbage cans set ablaze and barriers blocking off roads.

Graffiti sprayed on the walls of one building called for "justice for Nahel" and said "police kill".

In the working class 18th and 19th districts of northeastern Paris, police fired flashballs to disperse protesters burning rubbish, but instead of leaving, the crowd responded by throwing bottles.

"We are sick of being treated like this. This is for Nahel, we are Nahel," said two young men calling themselves "Avengers" as they wheeled rubbish bins from a nearby estate to add to a burning barricade.

One said his family had lived in France for three generations but "they are never going to accept us".

- 'Unforgivable' -
In the Essonne region south of the capital, a group set a bus on fire after forcing all the passengers off, police said, while in Clamart a tram was set on fire.

In the southern city of Toulouse, several cars were torched and responding police and firefighters pelted with projectiles, a police source said, while authorities reported similar scenes in Dijon and Lyon.

At France's second-largest prison complex, Fresnes, protesters attacked security at the entrance with fireworks, a police source told AFP.

"They did not enter the prison grounds. The police were quickly called in," the source added.

Police told AFP that in Seine-Saint-Denis multiple cars, stores and a library were set on fire, shops looted, police stations attacked and town halls damaged.

Tensions also flared in Roubaix, Amiens and Nice.

Hoping to tamp down the spreading violence, authorities have pleaded for calm.

On Wednesday morning, the Nanterre town hall urged an end to the "destructive spiral", while the government issued rare criticism of the security forces.

"A teenager was killed. That is inexplicable and unforgivable," President Emmanuel Macron said during an official visit to Marseille, southern France.

- 'Hurting for France' -
The victim, identified as Nahel M. from Nanterre, was pulled over for breaking traffic rules while driving a yellow Mercedes on Tuesday morning.

Police initially reported that an officer had shot at the teenager because he was driving at him, but this was contradicted by a video circulating on social media and authenticated by AFP.

The footage shows the two policemen standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver.

A voice is heard saying: "You are going to get a bullet in the head."

The police officer then appears to fire as the car abruptly drives off.

The victim, Nahel, was a delivery driver who had dropped out of high school.

He "wasn't a delinquent," a 55-year-old woman who said she knew him told AFP near his home on Wednesday.

Celebrities also voiced disgust and outrage.

"I am hurting for my France," tweeted Kylian Mbappe, captain of the French men's national football team and star player at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Potential to explode -
France is haunted by the prospect of a repeat of 2005 riots sparked by the death of two black boys during a police chase. Those protests resulted in around 6,000 people arrested.

"There are all the ingredients for another explosion potentially," one government advisor told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Last year, 13 people were killed after refusing to stop for police traffic checks, with a law change in 2017 that gave officers greater powers to use their weapons now under scrutiny.

But the shooting also follows a series of deaths among serving police officers that have provoked public sympathy.

"What I see on this video is the execution by police of a 17-year-old kid, in France, in 2023, in broad daylight," said Greens party leader Marine Tondelier said.

But far-right leader Marine Le Pen said the officer was entitled to the "presumption of innocence".

The 38-year old policeman filmed firing the lethal shot was taken into custody and is under investigation for voluntary manslaughter.

Nahel M.'s lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, said he would file an additional complaint for false testimony over the allegation that Nahel had tried to run them over.

There were two passengers in the car. One ran off and the other, also a teenager, was briefly detained.

World News




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