France is in a state of chaos as violent protests have been spreading around the country following the shooting dead of a 17-year-old Muslim by police during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday.
In the aftermath of the killing of Nahel M, people have taken to the streets on three consecutive nights to protest, setting cars alight and throwing stones and fireworks.
At least 667 people were arrested across France overnight on Thursday following a third day of protests over the death of the teenager.
A video shared on social media showed two police officers beside a Mercedes AMG car, with one shooting at the teenage driver at close range as he pulled away. He died shortly afterward from his wounds, the local prosecutor said.
“I lost a child of 17-year-old, they took my baby,” Nahel’s mother, Mounia, said in a TikTok video. “He was still a child, he needed his mother. This morning he gave me a big kiss and told me he loved me. I told him be careful and I loved him.”
According to his mother, they both had left the house together. While he went to get a McDonalds takeout, she left for work.
“And then I am told they shot my son, what can I do,” Mounia said. “I only had him. I didn’t have 10 like him. He was my life, my best friend. He was my son, He was my everything.”
The victim’s grandmother said: “I will never forgive them. My grandson died, they killed my grandson. We are not happy at all, I am against the government… They killed my grandson, now I don’t care about anyone, they took my grandson from me, I will never forgive them in my life, never, never, never.”
The teenager, who was too young to hold a full license in France, was driving illegally, a source familiar with the investigation told Reuters. The Nanterre prosecutor said the boy failed on Tuesday to obey the officers’ orders.
But a lawyer for Nahel’s family, Yassine Bouzrou, said they want the police officer prosecuted for murder instead of manslaughter. He said he would file an additional complaint for false testimony over the allegation that the victim had tried to run over the police officer.
Meanwhile, President Emmanuel Macron has urged parents to keep teenagers at home to limit rioting in French cities. He also blamed social media for fuelling copycat violence and said it had played a “significant role in the events of the past few days.”
Mr Macron said a third of the individuals arrested on Thursday were “young people, sometimes very young”, and that “it’s the parents’ responsibility” to keep their children at home.
“We sometimes have the feeling that some of them are living in the streets the video games that have intoxicated them,” he said of rioters.
On Thursday, 40,000 police officers were deployed across France – nearly four times the number mobilised on Wednesday.
And on Friday, following a second crisis meeting, France’s interior minister Gerald Darmanin issued an order to stop buses and tram services at night.
However, there were few signs that appeals from the government to de-escalate the situation are having any effect.
In Nanterre, where the shooting took place, protesters torched cars, barricaded streets and hurled projectiles at police following a vigil.
National police said on Thursday night that officers also faced new incidents in other areas of the country – in Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille, including fires and fireworks.
Meanwhile, the police officer who shot and killed the teenager asked the family of the boy for forgiveness.
His lawyer Laurent-Franck Lienard told BFMTV: “The first words he pronounced were to say sorry and the last words he said were to say sorry to the family.
“He is devastated, he doesn’t get up in the morning to kill people. He didn’t want to kill him.”