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Unrest In France Sparked by the Killing of Nahel M

posted on: Jul 5, 2023

Unrest In France Sparked by the Killing of Nahel M
Demonstrations in the Streets of France. Photo: Twitter

By: Adam Abdel-Qader / Arab America Contributing Writer

In the past week, France and its major cities have been hit by a large wave of protests after 17-year-old Algerian youth Nahel M was shot by police in Nanterre, a town west of Paris. 

Nahel’s killing triggered mass demonstrations consisting of fires, damaged property, and clashes between riot officers and demonstrators. 

In response to the turmoil, French President Emmanuel Macron held a crisis meeting with French ministers to attempt to unite the country again. 

Who Was Nahel M?

Nahel was an only child who, at the time, had been working as a delivery driver and was also a rugby player in his free time. His Algerian descent was a source of pride for him and his family, and although he did not know his father from a young age, he was said to have had a strong relationship with his mother and individuals who knew him in Nanterre. 

Before his passing, Nahel had been enrolled at a college in Suresnes to learn a trade. He was learning how to become an electrician. Many considered him an upstanding teenager; although he had occasionally been in trouble as a youth, he had no criminal record. 

As a member of an integration program run by Ovale Citoyen for teenagers struggling within schools, he was very close with the many individuals in the program. Among these individuals was the president of Ovale Citoyen, Jeff Puech. Mr. Puech had mentioned that not only did he know Nahel very well but that Nahel was “someone who had the will to fit in socially and professionally” and a teenager with an “exemplary attitude.” 

Unrest In France Sparked by the Killing of Nahel M
Riot Police Officers In the Disheveled Streets of Paris. Photo: CNN

The Start of Protesting: 

Protesters began rioting after Nahel’s death, tapping into ongoing anger over racial bias and discrimination in France. After further examination of the incident footage, this anger and subsequent protest finds its justification. 

The footage shows two officers at the driver’s side of Nahel’s vehicle, and after realizing he was in a traffic stop, Nahel decided to drive his car away since he did not have a license on him then. After beginning to move the vehicle away from the traffic stop, he was immediately shot at by one of the officers despite his non-threatening appearance and presence. 

A prosecutor in Nanterre has reviewed and conveyed that the officer was acting illegally in using his weapon and is currently confronting an investigation and charge for voluntary manslaughter. 

As the protests began, they worsened over a short period. In what is increasingly being portrayed as a racially biased killing, the already loose fabric of tension concerning discrimination against minorities in France has unraveled at an extremely high rate. From carrying signs that displayed the words “the police kill” to severely damaging government establishments, there is a sense of urgency to address the intense rioting and the even stronger presence of racial bias and police brutality in France. 

Sadly enough, the situation has also allowed a significant portion of donations to be allocated to the French police officer who shot Nahel at the traffic stop instead of Nahel’s family receiving a large amount of financial assistance. The police officer’s collection has reached over 1 Million Euros, while Nahel’s donations now stand at around 189,000 Euros. 

The tragedy of this event has been exacerbated by the amount of financial support given to an officer charged with voluntary manslaughter. At the same time, Nahel’s family has been left with a significantly smaller portion of support. While fires, smashed windows, and intense rioting may not be the answer to police brutality, a necessary response resides in the responsibilities of the French government to address methods of preventative action against these kinds of situations. 

Unrest In France Sparked by the Killing of Nahel M
Firefighters Working to Extinguish a Burning Car. Photo: CNN

President Macron’s Stance: 

Earlier this year, President Marcon faced several protests against pension reforms during his administration. In hopes for an overall reset and stride away from mass demonstrations, his longings have extended further and further away with all the recent turmoil. 

Moreover, Macron has called for the dampening of protests and demonstrations and has personally spoken out to social media platforms to help identify users on apps such as TikTok and Snapchat that have been using the networks as a means of calling for “‘disorder or to exacerbate violence.’” 


What is clear as of now is the work that needs to be done to halt these protests and begin to work toward a solution to prevent any forthcoming police brutality. However, what is even more apparent is the detriment of discrimination in society and the necessity to be more accepting of all ethnicities and races in all countries throughout the globe.

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