Protests Erupt in France After Racist Police Killing of Teenager

Martin Banks
NANTERRE, FRANCE - JUNE 29: 29: Crowds protest during a memorial march for French teenager, Nahel, who was killed by police on June 29, 2023 in Nanterre, France. A French teenager of North African origin was shot dead by police on June 27th, the third fatal traffic stop shooting this year in France - causing nationwide unrest and clashes with police forces. On June 28th, the victim's family called for a memorial march starting at Nanterre's main police station on June 29th. (Photo by Abdulmonam Eassa/Getty Images)

Belgium (Brussels Morning newspaper), Campaigners have “strongly condemned” what they call the “racist police brutality” that led to the “tragic and senseless murder” of 17-year-old Nael at the hands of the French police. 

French President Macron has described this incident as “inexplicable and unforgivable.” 

The death has led to widespread rioting on the streets of various cities in France, including Paris.

Brussels-based rights group the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), in a statement, said, “Once again, we witness violent policing resulting in the death of a young black teenager, raising urgent questions about the excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies, particularly towards racialized groups in Europe and, in this case, in France.”

The statement added, “The circulation of the video depicting this incident on social media, authenticated by the French news agency AFP, demonstrates the impunity involved. Tragically, a majority of lethal police shootings during traffic stops often involve black or Arab individuals. This incident underscores the failure of so-called comprehensive reforms within law enforcement agencies to address systemic issues. 

“Instead, it necessitates a redefinition of policing that prioritizes the well-being of our communities.”

Emmanuel Achiri, ENAR Policy and Advocacy Advisor on Policing told this site: “ENAR stands in solidarity with Nael’s family and loved ones, extending our deepest condolences for their devastating loss. We also express our solidarity with all individuals and communities affected by police violence. It is crucial for us to come together as a society to address these systemic issues and strive for a future where every person, especially racialized, feels safe and protected by the authorities meant to serve them.”

The official went on, “In a context where police brutality incidents have dramatically risen in France, a thorough and impartial investigation into this incident is essential to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions. A just and equitable society requires trust between the community and the police. 

“To guarantee transparency and accountability, an independent body must be established to investigate the racist killing of Nael by the French police, with the inclusion of representatives from racialized groups at all levels. 

Further reaction to the incident came from Ojeaku Nwabuzo, ENAR Director of Policy, Advocacy, and Network Development, who said, “We applaud the decision of French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin to take legal action against the police syndicate group, France Police, which released a tweet justifying the racist murder of Nael and celebrating the actions of the police officer.

 “We will closely monitor developments and expect rigorous actions not only to penalize the members of this group but also to ensure that individuals harboring such beliefs are removed from law enforcement altogether.” 

ENAR has now called on the French government to take immediate action to address the concerns raised by civil society organizations and human rights groups regarding “impunity and racialized policing in France.”

It said, “While every loss of life is a tragedy, the untimely end of a young person’s future due to racist police violence demands immediate justice and reform.  Incidents like this only widen the gap between law enforcement and the people they are meant to protect. Only through collaborative efforts and a redefinition of policing can we hope to bring about meaningful change and ensure that tragedies like this do not occur again.”

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.