Police killing of teenager triggers massive protests in France — Here’s what you need to know

World News

French authorities arrested 150 people across the country overnight after protestors clashed with police near Paris and other major cities, as unrest following the police shooting of a teenage delivery driver spilled into a second consecutive night.
NANTERRE, FRANCE – JUNE 29: French riot police face protestors after a memorial march for French teenager Nahel, shot by police during a traffic control stop. Image: Getty
Key Takeaways
  • The suburbs around Paris, Toulouse, Dijon and Lyon have been roiled by protests since a 17-year-old delivery driver named Nahel was shot and killed by a police officer Tuesday.
  • The officer who shot the 17-year-old has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, with French President Emmanuel Macron calling the shooting “inexplicable” and “unforgivable”.
  • The teenager’s death was captured on video showing a police officer leaning over the hood of a car, pointing a gun at its driver and appearing to fire a shot as the car begins moving before crashing to a stop.
  • The video—which was widely shared on social media—has sparked outrage across the country and launched a debate about police tactics in low-income areas and places home to ethnic minority groups.
  • On Wednesday, Macron called for “affection and respect” for Nahel’s family and urged people to remain calm: “We don’t need unrest and a worsening situation.”
  • Clashes between protestors and police continued on Thursday night, which, according to French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, resulted in “town halls, schools and police stations” being set on fire or attacked.
A police officer of unit RAID (Research, Assistance, Intervention, deterrence) holds a position in an anti-riot vehicle during protests in Lille, northern France. Image: Getty
Chief Critic

Macron criticized Wednesday night’s clashes, tweeting: “Violence against police stations, schools, town halls, against the Republic, is unjustifiable. Thank you to the police, armed police, firefighters and elected representatives who have mobilized. The next few hours must be marked by contemplation, justice and calm.”

Crucial Quote

Several prominent French public figures have spoken out against the police killing, including soccer superstar Kylian Mbappe, who tweeted: “I’m aching for my France. An unacceptable situation. All my thoughts go out to the family and loved ones of Naël, this little angel gone far too soon.”

The mother of Nahel, a teenage driver shot dead by a policeman, sits atop a truck followed by attendees during a commemoration march for her son, in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre. Image: Getty
Big Number

13. That is the total number of people who were killed by French police last year for refusing to stop during a traffic check, according to the French daily Le Monde. The number is reportedly a result of a legal change in 2017 that gave police in France wider powers to use their weapons.

News Peg

There are some parallels between the ongoing protests in France and similar protests against police brutality in the U.S. in 2020. Like the 2020 U.S. protests, the ongoing unrest in France has also brought attention to the French police’s treatment of minority groups—which has been a festering issue for years.

A like-for-like comparison of police violence in the U.S. and France is difficult due to differences in how this data is collected. But according to a report issued by France’s General Inspectorate of the National Police last year, 37 people were killed during police operations in the country in 2021, including 10 people who were shot dead.

The report found that police used their guns 290 times, including 157 shots fired against moving vehicles. In comparison, 1,163 people were killed in the U.S. by police in 2021 and that number rose to 1,241 last year, according to data aggregated by Campaign Zero, a U.S.-based police reform initiative.

This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

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