France Burning after Naël Merzouk Death by Police Bullet

France Riot

Naël Merzouk (17) dropped out of school to earn a little and became a pizza delivery boy some months back. His mother is single, his father left her before Nahel saw this earth. On June 27 morning he was driving a hired car with two passengers when he was signalled to stop in a traffic crossing at Nanterre, the Parisian outskirt where he lived; it was very apparent that he was too young to get a driving license. What shocked France was a video captured by a passerby who posted it in social media and it was somewhat after the big media houses showed only the first police version of the event: that the policeman shoot being afraid of getting run over by the car when Naël was trying to escape, a story that the video had smashed. People saw that the boy was killed point-blank while he tried to run his car away. Naël had Algerian/Muslim lineage and he is the third person to die this year in police shootout in traffic crossing, last year the figure was 22! And no wonder, most of the victims were Black and/or Muslim, while the French police has already gained a racist/islamophobe fame.

As usual the big media is showing and lamenting ‘riots’, ‘violence’, ‘loss of business’ and etc. But what was unusual that President Macron would say the incident was “inexcusable and unforgivable” and the National Assembly would observe a minute’s silence! This was unacceptable, naturally, to fascist party head Madame Le Pen and many far-right groups. The pent-up anger within the lower depth of the society usually gets expressed as ‘riots’ or ‘violence’ as aftermath of such incidents, and this time also it is happening, though nobody guessed it would continue so long. Thousands of cars and dozens of police stations were torched. Also, when rage is expressed like this there are times it crosses ‘limit’.

Naël’s mother and grandma expressed their anger and mother called for a protest via tik-tok, which thousands joined.

As it is still illegal to collect race/religion/ethnicity data of persons in France even by national census authority, there can only be estimates and once such estimate says about 40% of French people might be partly foreign-descent, though it is taken as a guesswork.

However, as far as poll results can show, it was seen that angry France, the poorer in France has been shifting towards far-right – and thus is dangerous. During the Gillet Jaunes (yellow-vests) protest we have seen far rights assembling and trying to make real racist riot in a few places. It is to be seen whether a Jacobin France, whether a Communard Paris can resurface in coming days and history starts taking forwards steps again.

Sandeep Banerjee is an activist who writes on political and socioeconomic issues and also on environmental issues. Some of his articles are published in Frontier Weekly. He lives in West Bengal, India. Presently he is a research worker. He can be reached at [email protected]


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