Prospect MagazineProspect Magazine

Until France tackles police brutality, anger will not subside

By Pauline Bock

04 Jul 2023 · 4 min read

informed Summary

  1. Emmanuel Macron has linked riots over the police killing of a teenager to video games. But the origins of the unrest go much deeper, Pauline Bock writes in Prospect Magazine.

Nahel M was 17 when he was shot at point-blank range and killed by a police officer on the 27th June in his neighbourhood of Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. The police later claimed that Nahel had tried to ram the officers with his car, and invoked self-defence. They were proved wrong when video of the scene, filmed by a passerby, was released, showing the young man posed no such threat. In response, France’s banlieues, in big cities and smaller towns, erupted in anger.

“Unacceptable, unjustifiable.” These were French president Emmanuel Macron’s words on the 30th June, not in reference to the extra-judicial killing of a teenager by a policeman, but to the three nights of rioting that followed Nahel’s death. The French president hoped for the return to calm, calling on the rioters’ parents to take “responsibility in keeping their children at home”. He observed that he felt as though “sometimes, some youth re-enact in the streets what they saw in the video games that intoxicated them”. Video games have nothing to do with the current situation in France. But it is easier for the French president to rely on the reactionary cliché of youth brainwashed by violent games (which, according to the gaming specialists at PC Gamer, is essentially a load of merde) than to address the country’s long history of police violence in the banlieues—violence that is deeply rooted in racism and colonialism.

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