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NANTERRE, FRANCE - 29 JUNE: Mounia, mother of the French teenager killed by police, waves to the crowds during a memorial march for her son Nahel on 29 June 2023 in Nanterre, France. A French teenager of North African origin was shot dead by police on June 27th, the third fatal traffic stop shooting this year in France - causing nationwide unrest and clashes with police forces. On June 28th, the victim's family called for a memorial march starting at Nanterre's main police station on June 29th. (Photo by Abdulmonam Eassa/Getty Images)

France to Deploy 40,000 Police Officers to Crack Down on Civil Unrest After Shooting Death of Teen

France will deploy 40,000 police officers across the country after two days of protests following the law enforcement shooting of a teenager in Paris.

On Tuesday, two police officers in the French capital stopped the 17-year-old—identified only as Nahel, a teen of North African origin—at a traffic check while he was driving. During the check, Le Monde reports that an officer shot Nahel in the chest—killing him. The incident was captured on cellphone video by bystanders and shared to social media.

“A video circulating on social media showed two policemen standing by the side of the stationary car, with one pointing a weapon at the driver,” according to Le Monde. “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 slowly drives off.”

The officers initially said Nahel was driving directly at them. But the video on social media appears to contradict their statements. Major protests then erupted throughout Paris and parts of France, damaging property and resulting in the arrest of at least 150 people. Supporters of Nahel and his family have also demonstrated in Paris, calling for an open investigation into the death of the teen and police accountability.

French President Emmanuel Macron held a meeting with the Interministerial Crisis Unit on Thursday, calling the violence unjustifiable but adding that “Nothing, nothing, justifies the death of a young person,” according to Le Monde.

The additional police personnel will be deployed across France, with roughly 5,000 being deployed across Paris. France 24 reports that authorities will suspend bus and tram service in Paris after 9:00 p.m. local time Thursday night “to ensure the protection of staff and passengers.”

Analysis of the traffic stop and shooting by local prosecutor, Pascal Prache, found that conditions for legal use of a firearm by the police officer were not met; the officer responsible will now face an investigation for voluntary homicide, the Associated Press reports.

“Prache, the Nanterre prosecutor, said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish license plates in a bus lane,” the AP explained. “He ran a red light to avoid being stopped but then got stuck in a traffic jam. Both officers involved said they drew their guns to prevent him from fleeing. The officer who fired a single shot said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car, according to Prache. The officers said they felt ‘threatened’ as the car drove off.”

In 2017, France expanded the legal authority for police officers to use firearms and open fire at moving vehicles. Officers are now allowed to shoot if suspects in vehicles are fleeing and the officers consider their lives to likely be in danger. The law also provides authority for officers to open fire in some instances if vehicle drivers refuse to comply with orders to stop. Following the revision to the law, The New York Times reports that the number of fatal police traffic stops has risen.

“The 2017 law was passed after intense lobbying by police unions, a powerful force in France,” according to the Times. “For years, union leaders have campaigned for expanded shooting rights, arguing that they were necessary to tackle a rise in crime. But the government consistently rejected their requests.

“Then came a string of terrorist attacks in the mid-2010s that traumatized France and fueled calls for more security. Under pressure, the government of President Francois Hollande agreed to the unions’ request and presented the move as a way to better protect police forces in the face of growing threats.”

The shooting has reignited debate that that law should be revised—or revoked—and that reform is needed to allegations of systemic racism in the police force, The Guardian reports.

“Tuesday’s killing was the third fatal shooting during traffic stops in France so far in 2023,” according to The Guardian. “Last year there were a record 13 such shootings, a spokesperson for the national police said. There were three such killings in 2021 and two in 2020, according to a Reuters tally, which shows the majority of victims since 2017 were Black or of Arab origin.”

As the unrest and protest movement in support of Nahel grows, authorities are concerned that it could be a repeat of demonstrations in 2005 after Zyad Benna and Bouna Traoré were killed while fleeing a police checkpoint in a Paris suburb.

“In the weeks of riots that followed, youths in the suburbs fought running battles with police and on some nights, dozens were arrested and hundreds of cars torched,” Politico reports. “Like Nahel, Benna and Traoré were from immigrant backgrounds, and their deaths fomented a sense of injustice among many. To bring the unrest to an end in 2005, the government was forced to declare a state of emergency.”