French riots: What to know as hundreds of police injured, thousands arrested following deadly shooting

Riots have gripped the suburbs of Paris and quickly spread to other towns and cities across France following the death of a 17-year-old during a traffic stop, but how did the situation spiral so far out of control?

“What’s happening there is the consequence of a failure to integrate the country’s Muslim immigrant population,” Alan Mendoza, co-founder and executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, told Fox News Digital.

“The France of legend is far removed from the daily realities of life in a ghettoized community that does not have the same opportunities to progress and succeed as the native population,” he said. “France’s forgotten communities are showing that they will stay forgotten no longer.”

“The simmering rage felt in the Banlieues just needed a spark to explode and is now being taken advantage of by an anarchical strain of French society that has always welcomed disorder in the form of rioting and looting.”


Secretary-General of Unite SGP Police FO union Grégory Joron claimed that the police “haven’t seen such urban violence in 18 years in so many cities around France.”

France Riots

Firefighters extinguish burning vehicles during clashes between protesters and police, after the death of Nahel, in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, June 28. ( REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq)

Police pulled over the teenager, identified only as Nahel M., in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday morning. Nahel worked as a delivery driver, but he pulled over to speak with two police officers, who approached his vehicle to explain that he had broken traffic rules, a prosecutor said.

The exact spark for the incident remains unclear, partially due to the contradiction of police reports and video that circulated on social media: Police said that Nahel drove his car at one of the officers, while the video shows one of the officers pointing a weapon at him and saying, “You are going to get a bullet in the head,” according to France24.

Nahel drove a yellow Mercedes. Had two passengers in the car and no license on him at the time. He reportedly had been placed in detention for refusing to comply with a previous traffic stop and was scheduled to appear in juvenile court in September.

Bus on fire

Firefighters use a water hose on a burned bus in Nanterre, outside Paris, France, Saturday, July 1, 2023. (AP)

The officer then appears to shoot Nahel as the car suddenly pulls away, traveling only a short distance before crashing, with Nahel dying at the scene. Police took the offending officer into custody and opened an investigation into charges of voluntary manslaughter, with charges brought against him on Friday.


Nahel, who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, had no criminal record, according to a lawyer for his family. He played for a local rugby club and was part of a program aimed at helping people from deprived areas obtain apprenticeships. Nahel planned to become an electrician.

Protesters march during a rally in Paris, France, on Thursday night. (AP/Aurelien Morissard)

French President Emmanuel Macron’s has provided a mixed response to the crisis, initially describing the shooting as “inexplicable” and “unforgivable,” but then decrying the protests and blaming everything from social media to video games for the increasing violence.

Macron argued that social media platforms, including TikTok, Snapchat and others, helped fuel the riots, especially after the personal information of the officer who shot Nahel ended up circulating on the platforms. He said his government would work with social media sites to take down “the most sensitive content” and identify users who “call for disorder or exacerbate the violence.”

A firework exploding

Police clear a street on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, Friday, June 30, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel, triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other neighborhoods.  (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

Nahel’s mother accused the police of responding violently to “an Arab face,” drawing attention to the underlying tension between a massive and underserved mostly North African, mainly Muslim immigrant population and the police.


While he had no criminal record, Nahel had been subject to five police checks since 2021 and had refused to comply with an order to stop. Most of the stops involved either driving without a license or insurance and using false number plates.

Cars burning

Cars burn after a march for Nahel, Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Nanterre, outside Paris. The killing of 17-year-old Nahel during a traffic check Tuesday, captured on video, shocked the country and stirred up long-simmering tensions between young people and police in housing projects and other disadvantaged neighborhoods around France.  (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

The video, and the contradictory police testimony that gave the impression of a coverup, sparked anger among some French citizens and led to the first protests. Protesters claim the death is a symptom of the underlying racism in France’s law enforcement agencies, The New York Times reported.

Protesters have violently clashed with police since the incident, with increasing numbers of arrests as demonstrators have hurled rocks and fireworks at police officers, set vehicles and trash on fire and defaced buildings.

French police fire tear gas back at protesters who are launching fireworks at them in Nanterre, outside of Paris

Police forces clash with youths in Nanterre, outside Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2023. The death of 17-year-old Nael by police during a traffic check Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Nanterre elicited nationwide concern and widespread messages of indignation and condolences. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that 1,200 police were deployed overnight and 2,000 would be out in force Wednesday in the Paris region and around other big cities to “maintain order.” (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The first protests occurred in Nanterre, but by the third day they had spread to other towns and cities, including Paris proper, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg and Lille.


Rioters in Marseille robbed a gun store, taking hunting rifles but not taking any ammunition.

Burned buses

View of burned buses at a RATP bus depot in Aubervilliers, damaged during night clashes between protesters and police, following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop near Paris, France, June 30, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier (Reuters)

Protestors demonstrate in front of police

Demonstrators clash with police after a march protesting the shooting of Nahel, 17, by a police officer in the Nanterre suburb of Paris, France, on Thursday, June 29, 2023. French authorities charged a police officer with homicide in the shooting of a teenager earlier this week as the country braced for another night of violent clashes over the killing. Photographer: Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Getty Images/Benjamin Girette)

On Saturday, President Macron canceled a trip to Germany to handle the crisis at home despite controversially attending an Elton John concert as the protests and violent clashes continued to grow.


He called an emergency meeting of the National Assembly to decide how to handle the protests, eventually deciding to deploy 45,000 officers and armored vehicles to try and tamp down on the protests. Initially, law enforcement agencies only deployed around 9,000 officers.

Police, protesters

A demonstrator runs on the third night of protests sparked by the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old driver in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, France, Friday, June 30, 2023. The June 27 shooting of the teen, identified as Nahel, triggered urban violence and stirred up tensions between police and young people in housing projects and other neighborhoods.  (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

Following the emergency meeting on Thursday, Macron called the clashes “absolutely unjustifiable.”

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that 270 people had been arrested on Friday night, with a total of 1,300 people arrested since the protests began. He pushed for a curfew on bus and tram traffic, starting at 9 p.m., to stem the movement of protesters.

Fireworks are shot at French police during a riot in Nanterre, outside of Paris

Police forces clash with youths in Nanterre, outside Paris, Thursday, June 29, 2023. French President Emmanuel Macron has described the killing of a 17-year-old delivery driver by police at a traffic check “inexcusable,” and called for a thorough investigation. The death in the Paris suburb of Nanterre prompted scattered violence overnight. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

When asked on a TV News channel whether the government would declare a state of emergency, he said, “Quite simply, we’re not ruling out any hypothesis, and we’ll see after tonight what the President of the Republic chooses.”


Fox News Digital’s Adam Sabes, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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