- A crowdfunding campaign for the family of the policeman who shot teenager Nahel M. has surpassed €1.4 million.
- Far-right media figure Jean Messiha launched the fundraiser on GoFundMe, drawing criticism from left-wing politicians.
- The campaign sparked calls for its shutdown, with left-wing leaders condemning support for a police officer facing voluntary homicide charges.
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 fundraising effort was launched on the US platform GoFundMe by French far-right media personality Jean Messiha who backed Eric Zemmour’s 2022 presidential run and has received more than 72 000 private donations.
Leftwing politicians have branded the fundraiser as shameful. At the same time, the far right has defended the police force says it 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 fundraising effort … is the symbol of a France that says no (to) this treachery.”
The police officer has been charged with voluntary homicide and remanded in custody.
Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure urged GoFundMe to shut down the campaign. “You are perpetuating an already yawning rift by supporting a police officer under investigation for voluntary homicide. Shut it down!” he wrote on social media.
Fundraising pledges for the family of Nahel stood at 352 000 euros.
Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti told France Inter radio that everyone should be able to donate to crowdfunding but added: “I don’t think (Messiha’s) goes in the direction of appeasement.”
The 27 June shooting of Nahel, a 17-year-old of Algerian-Moroccan descent, unleashed a wave of nationwide rioting that shocked France in its violence 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.
The killing tapped a 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.
What started as an uprising in the banlieues’ high-rise estates morphed into a broader outpouring of hate, 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.
The unrest, though, has not prompted the kind of government soul-searching on race which followed turmoil over similar incidents in other Western countries, such as Black Lives Matter protests in the United States or race riots at times in Britain.
Instead, the French government points to underprivilege in low-income urban neighbourhoods and juvenile delinquency, a reflection of the state’s belief that citizens are united under a single French identity, regardless of race or ethnicity.
President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday was hosting more than 200 mayors at the Elysee Palace to hear their accounts of the unrest.