The fatal shooting of a French teenager of Algerian and Moroccan descent by a police officer has set off days of violent protests that have rocked France.
From Nanterre, the working class Paris suburb where the teenager was shot, to the northern city of Lille and the Mediterranean city of Marseille, demonstrators have burned cars, damaged buildings and bus shelters over three nights of clashes with the authorities.
Here is how the events have unfolded.
The Fatal Shooting
On Tuesday, after a French police officer shot an unarmed teenager, French news media, citing anonymous police sources, initially reported that the teenager, driving a yellow Mercedes, had plowed into police officers, leading one of them to shoot.
But video soon surfaced on Twitter that seemed to contradict the police. The teenager, the video shows, was stopped by two police officers, one of whom has his gun drawn. As the teenager drives away, a loud bang is heard as an officer appears to shoot within point blank range in broad daylight.
The police officer who fired the shot later told investigators that he was trying to stop the driver from fleeing and was worried that he or his colleague would be hurt if the driver got away.
Violent Clashes with the Police
Protesters have said that the shooting of the 17-year-old, who has been publicly named only as Nahel M., 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.
During a second night of violent protests late Wednesday into early Thursday, young people clashed with the police in Nanterre, where the shooting took place, setting cars on fire, burning trash and throwing fireworks.
Nearly 200 people were arrested, and 170 officers were injured, leading Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, to announce the deployment of 40,000 police officers across the country to ensure that “a night of intolerable violence against symbols of the Republic” — town halls, schools and police stations — was not repeated.
The Nanterre prosecutor’s office said the officer had no legal grounds for opening fire and detained the officer on charges of voluntary homicide. The swift action did not quell the demonstrations, which have grown in size.
The police on Thursday fired tear gas at protesters near the site of the shooting, Nelson Mandela Square, in Nanterre, a working-class suburb 15 minutes by commuter train from central Paris. A lawyer representing his family told the French television program “C à Vous” that he had no criminal record. But Pascal Prache, the top prosecutor in Nanterre, said the teenager had been known to the police for not complying with traffic stops and had been summoned to juvenile court in September for such an incident.
“The country will continue to burn until we get justice,” said Sonia Benyoun, 33, walking with a group of local mothers who knew Nahel from their neighborhood.
Even as President Emmanuel Macron took measures to restore calm, anger over the shooting of Nahel M. grew. On Thursday night, protesters burned 2,000 cars and damaged nearly 500 buildings in dozens of cities across France.
A Vigil for Nahel M.
Mounia M., the mother of Nahel M., on Thursday led the procession from atop a flatbed truck, wearing a white T-shirt with the words “Justice for Nahel” and the date of the death of her only child. As the procession reached the Nanterre courthouse, she held up a red flare as crowds chanted her only child’s name.
She said in an interview with France 5 television that she learned her son had died when she arrived at the hospital where he had been taken. “I scream, and I fall,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Some of the worst violence has occurred in the Paris region, but until Thursday, Paris’s city center was largely spared.
Then during the third night of protests on Thursday, several stores in Paris, including a Nike outlet, were vandalized and looted as protesters and police clashed. More than 800 people were arrested in France and nearly 250 officers were injured, though none of them seriously, the authorities said on Friday.
Mr. Macron, who left a European Union summit in Brussels early to return to France, said on Friday that many of the protesters were teenagers and he appealed to parents to keep their children at home. He called the violence “unjustifiable” and said it had “no legitimacy whatsoever,” adding that the government would deploy new security measures for protests expected on Friday night.
Nahel M.’s funeral will be held on Saturday.
Catherine Porter and Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.
Additional production by Christina Kelso, Ang Li and Shawn Paik.