Protests in France: Paris police confront grieving mothers in Nanterre

Mounia, all dressed in white, could not help but thank the many people who came to honor her son, who was 17 at the time of his death. She stayed on top of the white van for two hours. Her swollen eyes betrayed the anguish and pain she felt. Nahel M, a French teenager of Algerian and Moroccan descent, was shot dead by a police officer in the Parisian district of Nanterre on Tuesday morning. The killing brought to light long-simmering frustrations in the French working class over police brutality and social exclusion. It also sparked an increase in clashes between protesters and police across France overnight. A so-called “white march” vigil was held Thursday in Nanterre under the direction of Mounia. Many mothers led the parade. Shouting, “Our children are being killed and no one cares,” Karima expressed his frustration. Sarah stood beside her. Her child, who is 15, accompanied her. I’m really worried about him, you know. “Do you think it’s normal that we are afraid that the police will kill our children in a country like France? The Macron government has so far ruled out declaring a state of emergency, as France did in 2005 following the murders of two teenagers in the Paris district of Clichy sous-Bois (Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré ). The French administrative authorities now have the possibility of prohibiting travel and public gatherings thanks to this law.

There were many teary-eyed teenagers in the parade. The message “Justice for Nahel” was printed on T-shirts worn by all. The white march was organized by relatives of the victim, and 6,000 people showed up, according to the police. At first everything was fine. At 3:30 p.m., however, as Nahel’s mother pleaded with the crowd to remain calm, police opened fire with tear gas. The situation quickly deteriorated and groups of people quickly gathered to confront the police. A protester named Ines struggled to breathe as she sat steps away from the crowd. They must stop. The young woman close to Nahel’s family said: “Everything was fine. We should at least make an effort to ease the tensions. It’s reckless, and they shouldn’t be surprised if things get out of hand since there are kids in the parade. Thursday evening was punctuated by hours of violent clashes between groups of young people and the police all around the Nanterre police station. There were lootings in grocery stores, a bank and real estate agencies. Abdul, 28, set fire to trash cans and helped build barricades on neighborhood streets. “I can’t stop crying,” he told MEE through his masked face. I came from Marseilles this morning to take part in the tribute march, but the police wouldn’t let us continue. I’ve never been part of a protest or a violent person, but that’s too much.

French President Emmanuel Macron appealed for calm, saying the escalation was unnecessary. “We need calm everywhere, because we don’t need a conflagration,” he said Wednesday morning. His messages fell on deaf ears in French working-class communities. Several French cities, including Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Toulouse and Pau, experienced riots on Thursday evening. Authorities reported a total of more than 660 arrests and a deployment of more than 40,000 officers. They also reported 249 wounded among the police and gendarmes. Mohamed Ali, 19, remarked: “It’s the police who have to calm down. We will continue anyway. For Nahel, we demand retaliation. Thirteen people were killed in France in 2016 for disobeying a traffic code. Most of the victims were children. The police officer who shot and killed Nahel M has apologized to the teenager’s family, according to the lawyer representing the officer. The lawyer described his client as “devastated”, adding: “He doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people”. To put it bluntly, “he didn’t want to kill him”. Right-wing and far-right political parties are demanding an emergency declaration in response to unrest in working-class communities. “The images of riots all over France are unbearable,” said Eric Ciotti, leader of the conservative Les Républicains party.

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