The grandmother of Nahel M., the French teenager whose fatal shooting by police sparked five nights of unrest, issued a plea on Sunday for calm, telling people to “stop and do not riot”.
French police arrested at least 719 people across the country on Saturday night following Nahel’s funeral earlier that day.
The 17-year-old victim, identified as Nahel M., was shot at point-blank range by a police officer on Tuesday morning in the Paris suburb of Nanterre. He was driving a yellow Mercedes when he was pulled over for traffic violations.
Police initially reported that he was shot after driving his car at police, but this was contradicted by a video that rapidly went viral on social media. The footage shows the two policemen standing by the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver. A voice is heard saying, “You are going to get a bullet in the head.” The police officer then appears to fire as the car abruptly drives off before gradually coming to a stop.
The incident has sparked violent unrest in the capital and cities across France that have seen protesters clash with police, torch cars, loot shops and attack public buildings.
“I tell the people who are rioting this: Do not smash windows, attack schools or buses. Stop! It’s the mums who are taking the bus, it’s the mums who walk outside,” the grandmother, Nadia, told a local television.
Nahel M., who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, was an only child being raised by his mother in Nanterre. His grandmother said he had dreamed of being a mechanic and described him as “kind” and “a nice boy”.