Second Night of Unrest Erupts in France after Police Shoot Teenager

REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq
Vehicles burn during clashes between protesters and police, after the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer during a traffic stop, in Nanterre, Paris suburb, France, June 28, 2023.

PARIS (Reuters) – Protesters shot fireworks at police and set cars ablaze in the working class Paris suburb of Nanterre on Wednesday, in a second night of unrest following the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy during a traffic stop there.

The use of lethal force by officers against the teenager, who was of North African origin, has fed into a deep-rooted perception of police brutality in the ethnically diverse suburbs of France’s biggest cities.

Shortly before midnight, a trail of overturned vehicles burned as fireworks fizzed at police lines on Nanterre’s Avenue Pablo Picasso.

Police clashed with protesters in the northern city of Lille and in Toulouse in the southwest andthere was also unrest in Amiens, Dijon and the Essonne administrative department south of the French capital, a police spokesman said.

French media reportedincidents in numerous other locations across the greater Paris region. Videos on social media showed dozens of fireworks being directed at the Montreuil town hall, on the eastern edge of Paris.

Earlier, President Emmanuel Macron called the shooting “unexplainable and inexcusable”.

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.

The interior ministry has called for calm, and said 2,000 police have been mobilized in the Paris region.

Rights groups allege systemic racism inside law enforcement agencies in France, a charge Macron has previously denied.

A video shared on social media, verified by Reuters, shows two police officers beside the car, a Mercedes AMG, with one shooting at the driver at close range as the car pulled away. He died shortly afterwards from his wounds, the local prosecutor said.

“You have a video that is very clear: a police officer killed a young man of 17 years. You can see that the shooting is not within the rules,” said Yassine Bouzrou, a lawyer for the family.

Lawmakers held a minute’s silence in the National Assembly, where Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the shooting “seems clearly not to comply with the rules.”

The family has filed a legal complaint against the officers for homicide, complicity in homicide and false testimony, the lawyer said.

In a video shared on TikTok, a woman identified as the victim’s mother called for a memorial march in Nanterre on Thursday. “Everyone come, we will lead a revolt for my son,” she said.


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 2022 and 2023.

Macron’s remarks were unusually frank in a country where senior politicians are often reticent to criticize police given voters’ security concerns.

Two leading police unions fought back, saying the detained police officer should be presumed innocent until found otherwise.

He has faced criticism from rivals who accuse him of being soft on drug dealers and petty criminals and has implemented policies aimed at curbing urban crime, including greater authority for police to issue fines.

Before the violence erupted for a second night, Some in Nanterre had expressed hope the unrest would end swiftly.

“To revolt like we did yesterday won’t change things, we need to discuss and talk,” local resident Fatima said.