Nahel Merzouk’s death has sparked riots across France, here’s how it all began

Thousands of people have been arrested

Videos have spread across social media of the ongoing riots in France over the past six nights. Thousands of people have been arrested following a nationwide unrest after a 17-year-old was killed by a police officer.

Nahel Merzouk’s funeral took place in Nanterre after he was shot dead by a police officer at a traffic stop. Since then, protestors have taken to the streets of France, rioting so far for six nights.

Here is everything that led up to a week of riots on the streets of France.

On Tuesday, 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk was killed

Last Tuesday, Nahel Merzouk, was driving a car when he was pulled over for breaking traffic rules. At 17 years old, Nahel was too young to have a full driving license.

It was initially reported by police that an officer had shot at Nahel because he was driving the car towards him.

Two days later, prosecution said witness statements, CCTV footage, amateur video footage and statements from police officers were being used to put together a timeline of events.

It was confirmed two motorcycle police officers noticed a Mercedes driving quickly in a bus lane and they had attempted to get the car to pull over on two occasions. The car then stopped at a traffic light, and the police asked the driver to turn off the engine and exit the car.

The police officers said they drew their weapons and aimed them at the driver to stop him from driving away. However, the driver attempted to drive off and the police then decided to shoot.

A bullet hit the driver through their arm and chest, and the car then crashed. First aid was provided to the driver but it was unsuccessful.

According to the prosecution, the officer who fired the shot said he wanted to prevent the car from leaving and was afraid it may hit someone. The officer now faces preliminary charges of voluntary homicide for shooting Nahel.

Riots then took place in major cities in France

The killing of Nahel Merzouk was the third fatal shooting during traffic stops in France in 2023, according to The Independent. Incidents between protestors and police first began on Tuesday night in and around Nanterre, where Nahel was killed.

Bins had been set on fire, protestors threw fireworks at the police and officers used tear gas on crowds. 2,000 police had been deployed to “maintain order”, but violence has continued. Reports of fires and conflict have been in Toulose, Lille, Nanterre and other Paris suburbs.

On Thursday, 4,000 officers were deployed following 875 being arrested. 5,000 officers were mobilised on Friday night and more than 1,300 arrests were made. On Saturday, 45,000 police were on the streets of Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Concerts and events across the country have been cancelled

On Friday morning, President Emmanuel Macron held a crisis meeting with senior ministers about the shooting.

Concerts at stadiums and smaller events across France have been cancelled due to the violence. Public demonstrations have also been banned and restaurants were encouraged to close early in Marseille.

A ban has been ordered on the sale and carrying of fireworks, canisters of gasoline, acids and other chemicals and flammable liquids.

Nahel’s grandmother has called for the riots to stop

Nahel Merzouk’s grandother has asked those rioting to stop, saying that her “heart is in pain”. She told French broadcaster BFM TV: “Fortunately the police are here. The people who are destroying, I tell them to ‘stop’. They are using Nahel as an excuse.

“They need to stop breaking the windows, the buses, the schools. We want things to calm down. We don’t want them to destroy. I am tired, I can’t take it anymore, I can’t sleep, I turned off the TV, I turned everything off I don’t want to listen to this anymore.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

‘This was no mistake’: University edits out student’s protest at graduation ceremony

People told to avoid using strangers’ vapes at festivals after reported spiking incidents

Reforms to the Online Safety Bill will make it easier to convict people who share revenge porn

Featured image credit via Ait Adjedjou Karim/ABACA/Shutterstock.