Fundraiser for policeman who shot French teenager reflects divisions

By Elizabeth Pineau

PARIS (Reuters) -A crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the family of the policeman who shot dead teenager Nahel M. in France topped 1.4 million euros ($1.5 million) on Tuesday, outstripping donations to his victim’s family and drawing anger from a swathe of French society.

The fallout from the death, and from the wave of rioting it triggered in France’s poor suburbs, continued to dominate political debate, with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne advocating in parliament a crackdown on young rioters and their parents.

President Emmanuel Macron hosted a meeting with 302 mayors of towns where rioting took place and told them violence was subsiding.

“Will the return to calm last? I would be prudent, but the peak that we experienced these past few days is over,” he was quoted as saying by a participant.

After listening to a range of views from the mayors, he said some humility was necessary as there was no consensus emerging on how best to respond to everything that had happened.

The fundraising effort on behalf of the officer who shot dead Nahel M. a week ago was launched on the GoFundMe platform by far-right media personality Jean Messiha, who received more than 72,000 private donations.

Leftwing politicians have branded the fundraiser as shameful, while the far-right has defended a police force it says is a daily target for violence in the low-income suburbs that ring French cities. It is a debate that reflects the deep fractures running through French society.

“This police officer is the victim of a national witch-hunt and it is a disgrace,” Messiha tweeted soon after launching the campaign.

The police officer has been charged with voluntary homicide and remanded in custody.

Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure called for the campaign for the officer to be shut down.

Fundraising pledges for the family of Nahel stood at 352,000 euros.


The June 27 shooting of Nahel, a 17-year-old of Algerian-Moroccan descent, unleashed violence on a scale that shocked France before police clamped down on the rioters, resulting in relative quiet over the past two nights.

Police made 72 arrests overnight, the interior ministry said.

What started as an uprising in the high-rise estates morphed into a broader outpouring of hate and anger toward the state, and opportunistic violence in towns and cities.

Rioters have torched more than 5,000 cars, looted shopping malls and targeted town halls, schools and state-owned properties considered symbols of the state.

Addressing lawmakers in parliament, Borne defended a tough law-and-order stance, saying the criminal justice system should ensure that even minor offences committed during the riots were prosecuted.

She also said that parents of rioters who were minors should receive fines and training on parental responsibility, and that the justice minister would imminently be sending out a directive to that effect.

Responding to a left-wing opposition lawmaker who was calling for a clear condemnation of police violence and for a change to a law blamed by many police critics for a rise in the number of police shootings, Borne accused the lawmaker of not respecting the values of the republic.

Her speech did not address the deep vein of resentment of law enforcement agencies in the poor and racially mixed suburbs of major French cities – known as banlieues – where Muslim communities of north African descent in particular have long accused police of racial profiling and violent tactics.

($1 = 0.9173 euros)

(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Richard Lough and Estelle Shirbon, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Alex Richardson)