Thousands of people attended the funeral of Nahel M., a 17-year-old French teenager who was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, on Tuesday.
The shooting sparked four nights of violent protests across France, with rioters clashing with police, setting fire to cars and buildings, and blocking roads and highways. More than 1,300 people have been arrested so far.
Nahel M., who was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, was an only child raised by his single mother Mounia, who described him as her “life” and “best friend”. He was working as a takeaway delivery driver and playing rugby for a community team that helped young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
He was shot in the chest at point-blank range by a police officer. A video of the incident recorded by a passenger in the car contradicted the officer’s version of events.
The officer has been charged with voluntary homicide and placed in preventive detention. The case has reignited the debate over police violence and racism in France, where President Emmanuel Macron has denied the existence of systemic racism in law enforcement.
Nahel M.’s family, friends, and supporters gathered at the grand mosque of Nanterre on Saturday to pay their respects and demand justice. They carried banners reading “Justice for Nahel” and “Stop police impunity”. Some also held the national flag upside down as a sign of distress.
The funeral was followed by a peaceful march to the town hall, where Nahel M.’s mother addressed the crowd. “I want justice for my son, I want justice for all the children who have been killed by the police,” she said. “They have taken my baby, they have taken my life.”