Home » French riots: What to know as hundreds of police hurt, thousands of protesters arrested after deadly shooting

French riots: What to know as hundreds of police hurt, thousands of protesters arrested after deadly shooting

by Mahmmod Shar

Protests have led to 270 policemen injured, over 2,000 protesters arrested

By Peter Aitken

Riots have gripped the suburbs of Paris and quickly spread to other towns and cities across France following the death of a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, but how did the situation spiral so far out of control? 

“What’s happening there is the consequence of a failure to integrate the country’s Muslim immigrant population,” Alan Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital.

Macron dances at Elton John concert as France burns amid ongoing violence

“The France of legend is far removed from the daily realities of life in a ghettoized community that does not have the same opportunities to progress and succeed as the native population,” he said. “France’s forgotten communities are showing that they will stay forgotten no longer.”

“The simmering rage felt in the banlieues just needed a spark to explode and is now being taken advantage of by an anarchical strain of French society that has always welcomed disorder in the form of rioting and looting.”

In total, more than 2,000 arrests have been made over a five-day period of unrest around the country. French President Emmanuel Macron’s also postponed his scheduled visit to Germany as a result of the unrest. France’s minister of the interior said on Saturday that the average age of those arrested was 17.

Secretary-General of Unite SGP Police FO union Gregory Joron said police “haven’t seen such urban violence in 18 years in so many cities around France.”

France Riots
Firefighters extinguish burning vehicles during clashes between protesters and police after the death of Nahel M. in the Paris suburb of Nanterre in France on June 28, 2023. (Reuters/Stephanie Lecocq)

Police pulled over the teenager, identified only as Nahel M., in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday morning. Nahel worked as a delivery driver, but he pulled over to speak with two police officers, who approached his vehicle to explain that he had broken traffic rules, a prosecutor said. 

The exact spark for the incident remains unclear, partially due to the contradiction of police reports and video that circulated on social media. Police said that Nahel drove his car at one of the officers, while the video shows one of the officers pointing a weapon at him and saying, “You are going to get a bullet in the head,” according to France24.

Nahel drove a yellow Mercedes. Had two passengers in the car and no license on him at the time. He reportedly had been placed in detention for refusing to comply with a previous traffic stop and was scheduled to appear in juvenile court in September.

Bus on fire
Firefighters use a water hose on a burned bus in Nanterre, outside Paris, on July 1, 2023. (AP)

The officer then appears to shoot Nahel as the car suddenly pulls away, traveling only a short distance before crashing, with Nahel dying at the scene. Police took the offending officer into custody and opened an investigation into charges of voluntary manslaughter, with charges brought against him on Friday.

Reuters reported that in an interview with French television the police officer’s lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard, said his client had aimed at the driver’s leg but was bumped when the car took off, causing him to shoot towards his chest. “Obviously (the officer) didn’t want to kill the driver,” he said according to the report.

Nahel, who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, had no criminal record, according to a lawyer for his family. He played for a local rugby club and was part of a program aimed at helping people from deprived areas obtain apprenticeships. Nahel planned to become an electrician.

Protesters march during a rally in Paris on Thursday night. (AP/Aurelien Morissard)

Macron has provided a mixed response to the crisis, initially describing the shooting as “inexplicable” and “unforgivable” but then decrying the protests and blaming everything from social media to video games for the increasing violence.

Macron argued that social media platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat and others, helped fuel the riots, especially after the personal information of the officer who shot Nahel ended up circulating on the platforms. He said his government would work with social media sites to take down “the most sensitive content” and identify users who “call for disorder or exacerbate the violence.” Macron also denied there was systemic racism within the country’s law enforcement services.

A firework exploding
Police clear a street on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, on June 30, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

Nahel’s mother accused the police of responding violently to “an Arab face,” drawing attention to the underlying tension between what some observers say is a massive and underserved North African, mainly Muslim, immigrant population and the police.

While he had no criminal record, Nahel had been subject to five police checks since 2021 and had refused to comply with an order to stop. Most of the stops involved either driving without a license or insurance and using false number plates.

Cars burning
Cars burn after a march for Nahel on June 29, 2023, in Nanterre, outside Paris. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The video, and the contradictory police testimony that gave the impression of a cover-up, sparked anger among some French citizens and led to the first demonstrators. Protesters say Nahel’s death is a symptom of the underlying racism in France’s law enforcement agencies, the New York Times reported.

Protesters have violently clashed with police since the incident, with increasing numbers of arrests as demonstrators have hurled rocks and fireworks at police officers, set vehicles and trash on fire and defaced buildings.

The first protests occurred in Nanterre, but by the third day, they had spread to other towns and cities, including Paris proper, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.

Rioters in Marseille robbed a gun store, taking hunting rifles but not taking any ammunition.

Burned buses
Burned-out buses are shown in Aubervilliers, France, after a night of clashes between protesters and police. The protests sparked after the death of Nahel M., a 17-year-old killed by a French police officer during a traffic stop in Nanterre, near Paris, on June 30, 2023. (Reuters/Sarah Meyssonnier)
Protestors demonstrate in front of police
Demonstrators clash with police after a march to protest the shooting of Nahel, 17, by a police officer in the Nanterre suburb of Paris on June 29, 2023. French authorities have charged a police officer with homicide in the shooting as the country copes with continued violent clashes over the killing. (Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

On Saturday, Macron canceled a trip to Germany to handle the crisis at home despite controversially attending an Elton John concert as the protests and violent clashes continued to grow.

He called an emergency meeting of the National Assembly to decide how to handle the protests, eventually deciding to deploy 45,000 officers and armored vehicles to try and tamp down on the protests. Initially, law enforcement agencies only deployed around 9,000 officers. 

Police, protesters
A demonstrator runs on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, Friday, June 30, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel, triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other neighborhoods.  (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

As of Saturday night Reuters reported the situation was calmer with sporadic violence erupting across parts of the country including in Marseille and Nice. In Paris, site of next year’s Olympic Games, police added more officers to guard the Champs Elysees avenue after social media was said to have called on protesters to gather there. 

Champs Elysees
French police gathered in numbers on the Champs Elysees in Paris, Saturday night. (Reuters)
Fireworks are shot at French police during a riot in Nanterre, outside of Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron has described the killing of a 17-year-old delivery driver by police at a traffic check “inexcusable” and called for a thorough investigation. The killing has sparked widespread, violent protests. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

When asked on a TV News channel whether the government would declare a state of emergency, France’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said, “Quite simply, we’re not ruling out any hypothesis, and we’ll see after tonight what the president of the republic chooses.”

Fox News Digital’s Adam Sabes, Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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