A 27-year-old man died on Saturday night in Marseille after being hit by a rubber bullet during the riots that have rocked France for a week. The man was reportedly shot in the chest by a ‘flash-ball’ projectile, a non-lethal weapon used by riot police, which caused a cardiac arrest. Prosecutors have opened an investigation to determine the circumstances of his death and who fired the gun.
The riots were sparked by the fatal shooting of Nahel M, a 17-year-old of Algerian and Moroccan descent, by police during a traffic stop in a Paris suburb on June 27. The incident ignited widespread anger and accusations of racism and police brutality against the minority communities in France.
More than 45,000 police were deployed across the country to quell the unrest, along with specialized elite units, armored vehicles, and helicopters. The violence reached its peak on Saturday, when protesters clashed with police in several cities, including Marseille, where the man was killed.
The flash-ball gun involved in the shooting is designed to be non-lethal and uses bullets that do not penetrate the skin. However, their use by police in France has been disputed as the projectiles have previously led to the loss of eyes, head injuries, and other trauma.
On Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron met with hundreds of mayors affected by the riots to explore the ‘deeper reasons behind the violence and find solutions. He said that the ‘peak’ of violence had passed, but cautioned that he would not declare a permanent return to calm. He also said that there was no ‘unanimity’ among the participants on how to address the underlying issues.
A total of 3,486 protesters were arrested throughout the course of the week, according to interior ministry figures. Of these, 374 people have already been brought to court and tried, according to the justice ministry.