France riots: violent unrest eases after boy, 17, killed by cop in Paris suburb Nanterre - what happened?

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Protests raged on the streets of France following the shooing of a 17-year-old boy in Paris

Violent protests in France following the shooting of a teenage boy by a police officer has begun to ease after six days of unrest and thousands of arrests across the country.

The apparent deescalation comes as mayors across the country called for peaceful demonstrations against the violence and looting in town squares. The family of teenager Nahel N, whose death sparked initial demonstrations, have called for people to stop the violent scenes, with his grandmother Nadia saying:' "They are using Nahel as an excuse. We want things to calm down".

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The government suggested the violence was beginning to lessen thanks to tougher security measures, but damages remained widespread, from Paris to Marseille and Lyon and French territories overseas, where a 54-year-old died after being hit by a stray bullet in French Guiana. Arrests have reduced over the past few days, with Sunday night marking a reduction in arrests from 700 to 150.

France’s national football team — including international star Kylian Mbappe, an idol to many young people in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods where the anger is rooted — have pleaded for an end to the violence.

“Many of us are from working-class neighbourhoods, we too share this feeling of pain and sadness” over the killing of 17-year-old Nahel, the players said in a statement. Violence resolves nothing.

“There are other peaceful and constructive ways to express yourself.” They said it is time for “mourning, dialogue and reconstruction” instead.

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President Emmanuel Macron planned to leave an EU summit in Brussels, where France plays a major role in European policymaking, to return to Paris and hold an emergency security meeting on Friday (30 June). The President had previously called the killing “inexcusable” and pleaded for calm while justice takes its course.

The French police officer has been handed preliminary murder charges in connection with the shooting. Footage of the teenager's last moments was posted on social media sparking anger over the officers' actions.

His death at the hands of authorities is the second recorded death of a person during a traffic stop in France this year.

What happened to the teenage boy in Nanterre?

The 17-year-old, named only as Nael, was driving through the Nanterre suburb of Paris on Tuesday 27 June when he was instructed to pull over for allegedly breaking traffic rule, according to prosecutors. Two other passengers were present at the time in the car.

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Police initially defended their action of shooting at his vehicle by saying that the boy was driving his car towards him. However, footage on social media, which has since been verified by AFP news agency, showed that two officers approached the car with one pointing their gun through the window and appearing to shoot point-blank into the car as it sped away.

As the officers approached the car, a voice in the video was heard saying: "You are going to get a bullet in the head". The vehicle drove off before crashing a few dozen meters away from the sight of the shooting, with Nael passing away a few moments after.

He is believed to have been shot in the chest and died from his injuries, despite receiving care from emergency services. Of the other two passengers, one reportedly fled the scene, while the other was arrested and held by police.

The police officer who shot at the teenager has been detained on homicide charges. Police confirmed that an investigation is ongoing.

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What happened in protests over his death?

The shooting sparked riots and protests in Nanterre, as well as demonstrations being recorded in other towns such as Asnières, Colombes, Suresnes. A third day of unrest ragged in France and some 40,000 police officers were deployed to quell the protests.

Police detained 667 people, the interior minister said. Some 307 were in the Paris region alone, according to police. Around 200 police officers were hurt, according to a national police spokesperson.

No information was available about injuries among the rest of the population.

People look at burning tyres blocking a street in Bordeaux. Picture: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty ImagesPeople look at burning tyres blocking a street in Bordeaux. Picture: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images
People look at burning tyres blocking a street in Bordeaux. Picture: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images | PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Schools, town halls and police stations were targeted by people setting fires, and police used tear gas, water cannons and dispersion grenades against rioters, the spokesperson said. Interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Friday denounced what he called a night of “rare violence”.

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Fireworks were lit and vehicles and bins were set alight during the unrest. Riot police were dispatched to towns to dampen protests, with 24 officers injured in the clashes.

Patrick Jarry, mayor of Nanterre, said that the riots has caused some "irreversible" damage to buildings in the town. Mr Jarry said: "I’m appealing to everyone to stop this destructive spiral, let’s protect our neighbourhoods, our shared assets such as buildings that we’ve worked so hard together to build and renovate.”

He added: “We’ll get justice through mobilising peacefully, with lawyers, in court and with everyone who holds justice to heart.”

His death has prompted an outpouring of sympathy and anger from notable celebrities. Mbappé said: "I'm hurting for my France. An unacceptable situation. All my thoughts go out to Nael's family and loved ones, this little angel gone far too soon."

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Lupin actor Omar Sy added: "May justice worthy of the name honour the memory of this child."

Police and firefighters struggled to contain protesters and extinguish numerous blazes through the night that damaged schools, police stations and town halls or other public buildings, according to a spokesperson for the national police.

The national police on Thursday (29 June) reported fires or skirmishes in multiple cities overnight, from Toulouse in the south to Lille in the north, though the nexus of tensions was Nanterre and other Paris suburbs.

Police arrested 150 people around the country, more than half of them in the Paris region, the spokesperson said.

Further protests are expected, with bus and tram services due to shut down early to void being “targets for thugs and vandals" during demonstrations.

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