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Deadly police shooting of teenager triggers protests and arrests across France

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

People in France are protesting a police shooting. An officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The officer had stopped the teenager just outside of Paris for a traffic violation. Police said the officer shot in self-defense after the teen rammed his car into the police vehicle. Video posted on social media showed the cop shooting into that vehicle, which triggered such a strong reaction that President Emmanuel Macron called a crisis meeting today.

FADEL: Reporter Rebecca Rosman is in Paris and has been following this story. Good morning, Rebecca.

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So tell us about the protests overnight.

ROSMAN: Well, clashes actually first erupted on Tuesday night in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, which is where the incident took place. But last night is where we really saw the protest start to spread to other parts of the country, cities like the southern city of Toulouse or Lille in the north. Thirty-five people were arrested in Paris alone. And you saw vehicles and buildings being set on fire. Then you had demonstrators shooting fireworks and throwing stones at police, who then responded by spraying tear gas to disperse the crowds. And the government has deployed 2,000 police officers in and around Paris alone to maintain order.

FADEL: And what is the government saying about the shooting?

ROSMAN: Well, there's this crisis meeting today, as was mentioned. But the government has acted quite quickly, I have to say, to condemn the situation. Here's French President Emmanuel Macron reacting to what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Non-English language spoken).

ROSMAN: So he's saying what happened was unexplainable and inexcusable. And Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne also said the police officer who fired the shot clearly didn't comply with the rules. And I should point out that this sort of really quite quick and quite blunt reaction is unusual for the government, which has historically been quite cautious about criticizing the police.

FADEL: Interesting. So clearly, they understand this has struck a national nerve. What about the family of the 17-year-old who was killed? Have they said anything?

ROSMAN: Yeah, so the boy's mother has posted a video on TikTok calling for a revolt for her son. And the family has also organized a silent march this afternoon in the square where he was killed.

FADEL: I want to understand what the protesters are demanding. And do protesters see this killing as part of a larger pattern in France?

ROSMAN: I think what they are trying to do is seize this moment as an opportunity to open a wider debate about what they see as systemic police abuse, particularly in the working-class suburbs. You know, there's long been complaints of police brutality and discrimination in these areas, especially against lower-income households and racial minorities. Last year, there were 13 people killed after being stopped for traffic violations.

And people in France have called out this kind of thing before when it's happened. And we saw some protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing in 2020. But this one, especially with this video, it just hits closer to home. And you have some lawmakers expressing concern, saying they're worried about police brutality in France mirroring what they've seen happening in the U.S. So I think we can expect not just more protests, but a wider conversation here about this issue.

FADEL: Reporter Rebecca Rosman in Paris. Thank you, Rebecca.

ROSMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Rebecca Rosman

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