France’s Macron calls deadly shooting during traffic stop ‘inexcusable.’
Streets of Nanterre, France, set ablaze amid protests
Violent protests resumed for the second night in Nanterre, France, as unrest over the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old at a traffic stop continues to boil over. Protesters aimed fireworks at police, who responded with rounds of tear gas, as firefighters worked to control the blazing cars lining the streets.
Protesters shot fireworks at police and set cars ablaze in the working class Paris suburb of Nanterre, hours after President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday deplored the “inexcusable” fatal shooting of a teenager during a traffic stop there.
There was a trail of overturned vehicles burned as fireworks fizzed at police lines on Avenue Pablo Picasso in Nanterre, where lawyers say 17-year-old delivery driver Nael M. was shot and killed Tuesday during a police check.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 150 people were arrested. The ministry said dozens of police officers were injured during the clashes.
Police also clashed with protesters in the northern city of Lille and in Toulouse in the southwest and there was also unrest in Amiens, Dijon and the Essonne administrative department south of the French capital, a police spokesman said.
A police officer is being investigated for voluntary homicide for shooting the youth. Prosecutors say he failed to comply with an order to stop his car. A passenger in the car was briefly detained and released, and police are searching for another passenger who fled.
Nanterre remained on edge the morning after the killing, with police on guard around the regional administration, and burnt car wreckage and overturned garbage bins still visible in some areas following the first night of protests. Bouquets of orange and yellow roses were tied to the post where the car crashed after the shooting, in Nanterre’s Nelson Mandela Square.
The shooting of the teenager, who was of North African origin, has fed a deep-rooted perception of police brutality in the ethnically diverse suburbs of France’s biggest cities.
France’s government on Wednesday announced heightened police presence around Paris and other big cities and called for calm after scattered violence erupted.
The interior ministry said 2,000 police officers have been mobilized in the Paris region.
Police also faced off with protesters in the northern city of Lille, and in Toulouse in the southwest. There was also unrest in Amiens, Dijon and the Essonne administrative department south of the French capital.
Minister calls video of shooting ‘extremely shocking’
Videos purported to be of the incident were “extremely shocking,” said Darmanin, pledging a full investigation. The images show two police officers leaning into the driver-side window of a yellow car, before the vehicle pulls away as one officer fires into the window. The car is later seen crashed into a post nearby.
Macron called for calm and for respect for Nael’s loved ones. Asked about police abuses, he said justice should be allowed to run its course.
“Nothing justifies the death of a young person,” he told reporters in Marseille.
Macron’s remarks were unusually frank in a country where senior politicians are often reticent to criticize police given voters’ security concerns.
Nael’s death unleashed anger in Nanterre and other towns, including around housing projects where many residents struggle with poverty and discrimination and feel police abuse is under-punished.
“As a mother from Nanterre, I have a feeling of insecurity for our children,” Mornia Labssi, a local resident and anti-racism campaigner, told Reuters, adding she had spoken to the victim’s family, which she said was of Algerian origin.
A lawyer for Nael’s family, Yassine Bouzrou, told The Associated Press they want the police officer pursued for murder instead of manslaughter, and want the investigation handed to a different region because they fear Nanterre investigators won’t be impartial.
The lawyers refuted a reported statement by the police that their lives were in danger because the driver had threatened to run them over.
History of deadly police stops
Tuesday’s killing was the third fatal shooting during traffic stops in France so far in 2023, down from a record 13 last year, a spokesperson for the national police said.
There were three such killings in 2021 and two in 2020, according to a Reuters tally, which shows the majority of victims since 2017 were Black or of Arab origin.
France’s human rights ombudsman has opened an inquiry into the death, the sixth such inquiry into similar incidents in the last two years.
Protesters clash with French police in fiery night after fatal shooting
Dozens of people were arrested while several police officers were injured in widespread protests.
With files from The Associated Press
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