The fatal shooting of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old unarmed French citizen of Algerian and Moroccan descent, during a routine traffic stop in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris, ignited a series of nationwide demonstrations in France. Initially, the police justified the shooting by citing safety concerns, but conflicting accounts emerged, and a Twitter video showed officers pointing a gun at the stopped car, which subsequently fled and crashed.
On June 28, a peaceful protest known as the “White March” took place in Nahel’s hometown of Nanterre. However, tensions escalated as demonstrations spread to other cities across the country. The unrest was characterized by widespread violence, with incidents occurring in various regions of France. The violence was predominantly attributed to young individuals, including minors and migrants from Black and Arab communities. Nanterre served as the epicenter of the riots, which subsequently spread to other parts of the country.
Over the course of five consecutive nights, France experienced widespread riots, resulting in more than 3,000 arrests nationwide. In response to the escalating situation, mayors of affected cities organized rallies at town halls to condemn the violence, looting, and infrastructure destruction. The police officer involved in the shooting was detained on charges of voluntary homicide.
The incident and subsequent riots raised questions about France’s history of police brutality against minorities. The unrest also had an impact on France’s overseas territories, as demonstrations and acts of violence were reported in various regions. While the intensity of the riots began to subside by July 2, the incident highlighted deeper social tensions and ongoing challenges faced by marginalized communities in France.