Protests have continued for six nights following a police shooting that started as a traffic stop and ended in the death of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk in a Paris suburb. More than 2,000 people have been arrested throughout the demonstrations, as some of the protests turned violent, with protesters torching cars and throwing items at police.

Some 45,000 security forces were deployed to address the rioting, CNN reported. And Merzouk’s grandmother called for an end to the unrest.

“I’m tired,” his grandmother, Nadia, said, per CNN affiliate BFMTV, who only disclosed her first name. She continued, “They should not damage the schools, not break the buses, it was the moms who take the buses.”

Demonstrations escalated to a fever pitch Sunday morning, when some attacked the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the mayor of L’Haÿ-les-Roses. He was working at the time, but his wife and two young children were sleeping and were injured as they escaped the fire, The Guardian reported.

On Sunday night, 49 people were arrested, compared to 1,300 on Friday night.

What led to the police shooting of the French teen?

On the morning of Tuesday, June 27, police sources initially reported that a teenager was shot and killed after plowing into two police officers in a yellow Mercedes who had stopped him for a traffic stop. But video released on Twitter revealed that the teenager appeared to have been driving away from police when one of the officers drew his gun and fired at Merzouk “within point-blank range in broad daylight,” according to The New York Times.

The incident drew ire with thousands of French citizens, who demonstrated for six straight nights, marching and protesting. The Times reported that protesters have said that the shooting “is emblematic of a deep-rooted racism within France’s law enforcement agencies and its history of disproportionately targeting Black people and immigrants of Arab descent, particularly in France’s poor urban suburbs.”

“This absolutely needs to stop. The government is completely disconnected from our reality,” Marie, who was only identified by her first name and has lived in Nanterre for 50 years, told Reuters.

A funeral to honor Merzouk’s life was held Saturday in Nanterre’s grand mosque, and several hundred people showed up to pay tribute to the teenager, per Reuters.

Friday, June 30

More than 800 people were arrested Thursday night during the third straight night of protests following a police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel in a Paris suburb during a traffic check on Tuesday.

At least 200 police officers were injured as the protests escalated — The Associated Press reported, “Protesters erected barricades, lit fires and shot fireworks at police who responded with tear gas and water cannons.”

Cars were set on fire and flipped as tensions rose. Unrest over the situation grew out from Paris to other cities in France all the way to Brussels, the capital of Belgium, per AP.

“There’s a feeling of injustice in many residents’ minds, whether it’s about school achievement, getting a job, access to culture, housing and other life issues … I believe we are in that moment when we need to face the urgency (of the situation),” said Nanterre Mayor Patrick Jarry, the mayor of the suburb where Nahel was killed.

Nahel’s last name has not yet been released, and a relative says he comes from Algerian descent, per AP.

According to CBS News, “His death has revived longstanding grievances about policing and racial profiling in France’s low-income and multiethnic suburbs.”

What happened in police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel?

Videos from the incident show “two police officers leaning into the driver-side window of a yellow car,” and as the car drives away, one of the officers shoots into the window. Later on, the car appears crashed into a nearby post. The victim, 17-year-old Nahel (last name not yet released), was wounded by a gunshot and ultimately died at the scene, according to The Associated Press.

“He was still a child. He needed his mother,” his mother, Mounia, said, per BBC. “He kissed me goodbye in the morning and said, ‘I love you mum.’ An hour later, I was told that someone shot my son. What shall I do? He was my life. He was everything to me.”

Riot police officers patrol as smoke billows from burnt vehicles on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, Friday, June 30, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel, triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other neighborhoods. | Aurelien Morissard, Associated Press

How have French police, authorities responded to the shooting and protests?

The officer who fired and shot Nahel is “facing a formal investigation for voluntary homicide,” CNN reported.

CNN reported that the officer “explained his actions by the desire to prevent the vehicle from fleeing again, and by the dangerous road behavior of the driver,” according to Nanterre Prosecutor Pascal Prache in a press conference.

Authorities deployed 40,000 law enforcement officers across the country Thursday night to address the tensions, according to ABC News.

A group called France Police published a tweet that has since been deleted that said “bravo” to the police who “opened fire on a young criminal.” Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin says he will be taking legal action against the group after the tweet, per BBC.

President Emmanuel Macron called an emergency security meeting on Thursday and said, “These acts are totally unjustifiable.” He also recommended taking time for “remembrance and respect” during this time of grief. Nahel’s mother called for a silent march Thursday on the square where he was killed to honor his life, NPR reported.

View Comments

French activists urged authorities to address “what they see as systemic police abuse.” Government officials did condemn the killing and “sought to distance themselves from the police officer’s actions,” according to NPR.

“It’s not the Republic that was in custody. It is not the Republic that killed this young man. Nor is it the police of the Republic who is responsible for this (the killing). It is one man, who must be judged if the justice system deems it necessary,” Olivier Véran, French government spokesperson, told CNN affiliate BFMTV.

Macron called for “calm” as investigations into the teen’s death continue, per ABC News.

Earlier media reports identified the 17-year-old as Nael. This story has been updated to change the spelling to Nahel.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.