“Inflection Point”: Uprising over French Teen’s Killing in Traffic Stop & Pattern of Racist Policing
In France, more than 3,000 people have been arrested after a week of nationwide protests following the police killing of Nahel Merzouk, a teenager of North African descent, captured on video. Nahel’s family and friends held his funeral Saturday at a mosque in Nanterre. We speak with Rokhaya Diallo, a French journalist in Paris, who explains this killing is part of a long pattern of racist policing that has divided the country. “I wish there was a real and profound discussion about police brutality, about racialized policing,” says Diallo.
So, what first initiated the uprisings was the death of a teenager, Nahel, who was killed in a traffic stop by the police. And what really outraged the people who are now in the streets was the fact that it was captured, and the fact that we could hear the sound, and the sound could really — really showed something very threatening to Nahel. And he was killed so quickly. And Nahel is also — it’s important to underline that he’s also from the North African origin, so he belongs to a category of the population that is overpoliced, overtargeted by police brutality and police abuses. So that’s why people were so angry. Many of the people who went to the streets right after his killing were people who looked like him and who, some of them, think that they could have been targeted in the same way. [...]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what’s been the response of President Emmanuel Macron to the uprisings and the disturbances around the country?
ROKHAYA DIALLO: So, the response before the uprisings, his response was very quick and very uncommon, actually, because he said that the death of Nahel was inexcusable. He also said that it was inexplicable, which I don’t agree with, since we had figures for a long time, and we know that those things, unfortunately, happen.
And what happened first also — I forgot to mention that — is that before the video was spread on social media, the police issued a report saying that Nahel was dangerous, and he was driving in car towards them. The video showed this wasn’t the case. So, it also means that we can think that other people have been facing the same kind of situation, and as it wasn’t captured, we don’t know what really happened. The police, at the end of the day, issue reports that fit to their version of the story, but it’s not always the truth.
So, Macron said at first that it was inexcusable, but then he really had a hard stance against the uprising, and he blamed it on the parents, saying that he was considering sanctions towards the parents who had their children taking part to the uprisings.