France protests continue over fatal police shooting of North African 17-year-old News
Traroth, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
France protests continue over fatal police shooting of North African 17-year-old

After seven nights of protests in France over the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, French police have arrested a total of more than 3,000 protesters. The protests began after a police officer shot and killed Merzouk, whose parents are from Algeria and Morocco, during a traffic stop on June 27.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted out his thanks to French police after the Ministry of the Interior mobilized some 45,000 police officers three nights in a row to quell riots. While protests have calmed significantly since they first began, police announced the arrest of another 72 protesters early Tuesday morning.

The protests began last Tuesday night following the fatal shooting of Merzouk, whose full name was only recently released to the public. According to the police, Merzouk was spotted in the Paris suburb of Nanterre driving a yellow Mercedes. Police initiated a traffic stop, during which Merzouk attempted to drive away. In response, police shot and killed Merzouk. A later search of Merzouk’s vehicle did not reveal any illicit substances or materials.

In the wake of Merzouk’s death, thousands of protesters took to the street to voice their discontent with French policing, which they claim disproportionately targets people of marginalized ethnicities, races and socio-economic classes—echoing the calls of Black Lives Matter protests seen in the US following the 2020 killing of George Floyd. Protesters’ clashes with police have been fierce across the country, with protesters sending a burning car into the mayor of Paris suburb L’Haÿ-les-Roses’s house early Sunday morning. Merzouk’s grandmother later pleaded with protesters—many of whom are teenagers—to stop the violence.

The protests have drawn international attention, with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights writing:

We are concerned by the killing of a 17-year-old of North African descent by police in France on Tuesday. …This is a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and discrimination in law enforcement. …We call on the authorities to ensure use of force by police to address violent elements in demonstrations always respects the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, non-discrimination, precaution and accountability. Any allegations of disproportionate use of force must be swiftly investigated.

The police officer responsible for firing the shot that killed Merzouk has since been taken into custody in Nanterre on charges of voluntary homicide.