Outrage and agony at funeral of boy whose ‘execution’ set France alight

TSuch was the number of mourners that crowds poured out of the Paris mosque, halting traffic while they prayed in the middle of the street.

The police killing of 17-year-old Nahel Marzouk has been described as an “execution” and has inflamed the nation’s anger and unleashed a level of unrest not seen in France for over a decade.

Across the country, at least 2,400 people were arrested, curfews imposed and public transport restricted as open street battles raged between protesters and police and looting was the order of the day.

In response, President Emmanuel Macron dispatched 45,000 officers, including elite anti-terrorist units and armored vehicles, to roam the streets.

But on Saturday, at Nahel’s funeral in a mosque in Nanterre, the west Paris suburb where he lived and was fatally shot, security forces were most notable.

Volunteers from the local community instead succinctly patrolled the streets scrawled with the words “The Land of Police Impunity.”

They contained the emotions that flared as the body was taken to a hearse escorted by hundreds of people on foot and on scooters.

“It’s ready,” Nahel M’s mother Mounia said bravely to a cloud of female well-wishers after the coffin was lowered into the ground.

“He had gone to paradise.”

Nahel – a teenager of Moroccan and Algerian descent – was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop on Tuesday: an incident captured on cellphone footage showing Nahel driving away from officers before one shot him.

Thousands protested across the country in outrage at the murder and apparent attempts by police to portray Nahel as a troubled teenager wanted by the law.

A protester moves a metal barrier during a demonstration in Caen, northwest France

(AFP via Getty Images)

Nahel’s death was “the last drop that made the vase overflow,” friends of the family said again and again The Independent. France exploded.

According to the Interior Ministry, the streets of cities such as Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille were ablaze for four nights. Looters looted dozens of businesses and set fire to 2,000 vehicles.

There have been calls for calm and for President Macron to declare a state of emergency, with more unrest on the horizon.

The United Nations also called on the country “to seriously address the profound problems of racism and discrimination in law enforcement”.

It has taken a toll on Mr Macron’s diplomatic profile. On Saturday, Mr Macron had to postpone the first state visit by a French president to Germany in 23 years, citing internal security issues.

A woman pays her respects at the spot where Nahel died shortly after his burial in Nanterre


On the funeral march to the cemetery on the hill, friends of the family said they were in “deep shock” and spoke of struggling with racism, which is rampant in the French police force.

“I’m devastated, we all are, especially as a mom with kids living in this neighborhood,” said Theresa, 60, who lived next door to Nahel’s grandmother and knew the teenager personally, whom she described as “smiling, hardworking and kind.” . .

“Thank god there’s a video, the police lie all the time. “That could change things,” she added.

Mohamed, 60, who also belongs to the Algerian community in Nanterre and is a friend of Nahel’s mother Mounia, said they were all treated like “second-class citizens”.

“Nahel was all his mother’s world, and now he’s gone. She lost everything. We just don’t get equal rights.”

Nahel was his mother’s whole world, and now he’s gone. We don’t get equal rights

Mohammed, family friend

His comments were echoed by half a dozen other mourners The Independent talked to him all day.

“If you’re not white, you’re not the same. There is a two-tier nationality system,” said Abdelmalek Hamchoui, 62, a local community leader.

“I’m made to feel like I’m only French on paper,” added Hadhrami Belhachemi, 35.

And so the incident threw a harsh spotlight on the French judiciary and legal system.

Abdelmadjid Benamara, one of the family’s lawyers, also from Nanterre, described Nahel’s murder as an “execution” and told The Independent It was just the latest in a long line of alarming incidents by French police.

He called for a series of investigations into the police response to the incident and a comprehensive reform of the legal system.

One must call a spade a spade: that is an execution

Abdelmadjid Benamara, Nahel’s family lawyer

“You can’t be hypocritical about it. When a police officer kills a young teenager, you have to call it a spade: it’s an execution. You have to start the right investigation,” he added.

While the police officer who fired the shot was in custody when video of the incident emerged, the second police officer at the scene was not charged and is still on duty, Mr Benamara continued.

“The problem lies in the legal system as a whole, after a 2017 bill relaxed rules on police officers’ right to use their firearms.”

“In 2022, there were 13 cases in which French police shot at citizens in circumstances similar to those in the assassination of Nahel M. Of these, only five are being studied,” he added.

Police officers walk next to a burned car that was destroyed during clashes between protesters and riot police in Nanterre, near Paris


The only difference this time is that there is a video of the event.

“There is a social contract between the people and the government that has been broken. There is no more trust,” he added.

The riots have also brought back memories of the 2005 riots that shook France for three weeks and forced then-President Jacques Chirac to declare a state of emergency.

This wave of violence erupted in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and spread across the country after two young men died after being electrocuted at a substation while hiding from police.

Many people The Independent I spoke to him and said nothing has changed since then.

Police officers try to disperse protesters with tear gas during an anti-police demonstration in Marseille, southern France

(AFP via Getty Images)

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for 27 years and every year it gets more racist,” Laslah Baghdad, 58, another Nanterre mourner, said at Nahel’s funeral.

“I don’t know how you fight.”

The explosion of anger across the country, sparked by video evidence of Nahel’s murder suggesting homocide, could be the catalyst for a different future, Theresa continued.

“We have an expression: 100 years for the thief, one year for the master. That really embodies the situation here,” she said.

“But now we have a feeling that there will be changes.”

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing russellfalcon@ustimespost.com.

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