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Unrest grows following the police killing of a teen in France

Firefighters extinguish a burning vehicle in Nanterre following protests in the wake of Nahel's death
Firefighters extinguish a burning vehicle in Nanterre following protests in the wake of Nahel’s death. Credit: AFP
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On the second night of widespread unrest following the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy by police near Paris during a traffic check on Tuesday, at least 150 people have been detained across France.

Fires were lit in town halls, classrooms, and police stations. This, according to President Emmanuel Macron, is “unjustifiable”.

The police officer who fired first is currently the subject of a formal homicide inquiry.

As he sped away from the cops, Nahel M. was shot at close range.

The use of a firearm, according to French prosecutors, was not legally warranted.

On Wednesday morning, President Macron held a crisis cabinet meeting to discuss the escalating riots.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that France had witnessed “a night of unbearable violence”.

He said “the state must be firm in its response”, adding that 40,000 police officers would be mobilised across the country later in the day to prevent any further violence.

Overnight, clashes were reported across suburbs of Paris – but some of the most violent confrontations were in Nanterre, where the teenager was shot dead.

Local authorities were forced to partially withdraw, Le Monde reported.

Videos shared on social media showed cars being set alight and shops being ransacked on Wednesday across the Paris region.

A prison in Fresnes, south of the capital, was also attacked with fireworks by rioters overnight, AFP reported.

The news agency said videos showed about 20 young men attacking the entrance to the prison with fireworks and projectiles. Videos shared to social media showed an alarm sounding during the attack.

The violence was particularly concentrated around the Pablo Picasso district there, where young people took to the streets after the sun set.

“They’re backing off! Let’s go guys, let’s go, death to cops!” one yelled, while various cars and rubbish bins were set alight.

While the violence was concentrated in that district, protesters targeted other regions across Paris, with many firing fireworks into police stations.

In the northern city of Lille, footage posted online showed people inside the town hall of the Mons-en-Barœul suburb setting documents and chairs alight.

And elsewhere, in the western town of Rennes, about 300 people gathered to pay tribute to the teen. Some of them also lit fires and were dispersed by police.

On Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the shooting of Nahel was “unforgivable”.


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But his comments drew an angry reaction from police unions, who accused him of rushing to judge the officers involved.

The Alliance Police union called for them to be presumed innocent until found guilty, while the rival Unité SGP Police also spoke of political interventions that encouraged “anti-cop hatred”.

Mr Darmanin said he would be taking legal action against another group, France Police, after it published what he called an “unacceptable and abject” tweet seeking to justify the teenager’s killing.

The now-deleted tweet said “bravo” to the officers who “opened fire on a young criminal” and blamed the teen’s parents for his death, claiming they had been “unable to educate their son”.

Nahel’s mother Mounia, speaking in a social media video, said they had taken away her baby and urged people to join a march in remembrance of her son.

“He was still a child. He needed his mother,” she said. “He kissed me goodbye in the morning and said, ‘I love you mum’.

“An hour later, I was told that someone shot my son. What shall I do? He was my life. He was everything to me.”

The officer accused of killing him, who said he had fired because he felt his life was in danger, is in custody on charges of voluntary manslaughter.

Nahel, who a neighbour says came from a French-Algerian family, is the second person this year in France to have been killed in a police shooting during a traffic stop. Last year, a record 13 people died in this way.

Rights groups have criticised a 2017 law change which broadened the framework for when officers can use firearms.

Citing official statistics, Le Monde newspaper reported that the annual number of police shootings at moving vehicles has consistently been higher since the change.

Campaigner Rokhaya Diallo told BFMTV that more shots fired meant a higher risk of being hit, especially for people of colour.

Reuters news agency found that a majority of victims of lethal police shootings during traffic stops since 2017 were black or Arab.

According to French media, police initially suggested the teen drove his car towards them with the intention of hurting them.

But footage posted online and verified by the AFP news agency shows an officer pointing his weapon at the driver through his window and appearing to fire at point-blank range as he tries to drive off.

The agency also reports that a person in the video can be heard saying: “You’re going to be shot in the head” – but it is unclear who says it.

Two others were in the car at the time of the shooting. One fled while another, also a minor, was arrested and held by police.

“Nothing justifies the death of a young person,” President Macron told reporters in Marseille, calling for “calm for justice to be done”.

“I would like to express the feelings of the entire nation at what has happened and the death of young Nahel, and to tell his family of our solidarity and the nation’s affection.”

“We have a teenager who has been killed. It’s inexplicable, unforgivable,” he said, adding that the the case was immediately referred to the courts where he hoped justice would “do its job quickly”.

Authorities have opened two separate investigations following the teen’s death – one into a possible killing by a public official, and another into the driver’s failure to stop his vehicle and the alleged attempt to kill a police officer. Source: BBC

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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