French riot police officers stand guard behind a burnt trash bin during a demonstration against police in Marseille, southern France on July 1, 2023.
A fundraiser for the police officer who shot a 17-year-old in France has received four times the donations sent to the victim’s family.
Nahel M, a teenager of Algerian-Moroccan descent, was shot dead by an officer last Tuesday morning during a traffic stop, prompting nationwide riots and mass arrests.
The policeman in question has been charged with voluntary homicide and remanded in custody, after the prosecutor in charge of the investigation said the “legal conditions for using the weapon” were “not met”.
A week after the violence began, a crowdfunder for the policeman’s family reached 1.4 million euros (£1,198,500), far outstripping the donations sent to Nahel’s family, which were at 352,000 euros (£301,565).
The GoFundMe page was set up by French far-right media personality Jean Messiha who has worked with presidential candidates like Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour, and received more than 72,000 private donations.
Messiha tweeted: “This police officer is the victim of a national witch-hunt and it is a disgrace. The fundraising effort... is the symbol of a France that says no (to) this treachery.”
He also told Euronews: “If you don’t obey the police, you’re putting your finger in a spiral which, once again, can lead to tragedy. In this case, Nahel committed suicide, nothing more, nothing less.”
He justified the campaign by saying the family of the officer (known only as Florian M right now) is “in enormous difficulty because the officer is now in prison, his wages have been suspended and he has legal fees to pay”, while alleging his relatives have been been targeted by rioters.
He also said that the investigation into the incident has only just started, and could be reclassified.
The far-right claim police regularly face violence in low-income suburbs around French cities, but the fundraiser – and its supporters – has been condemned by leftwing politicians.
Socialist Party leader Olivier Faure called for the US platform GoFundMe to shut the page for the officer down, claiming you are “perpetuating an already yawning rift” within France.
Similarly, Yannick Jadot of the Green Party told the French media: “This fund should be abolished, as it is frankly unworthy of what a family, Nahel’s family, is going through, unworthy of the anger in the neighbourhoods, sometimes towards police violence.”
Manon Aubry, MEP from far-left La France Insoumise party, tweeted on Monday that this GoFundMe page sends the message that “it pays to kill a young Arab” and “the government is turning a blind eye”.
Asked about the controversial GoFundMe page, French prime minister Elisabeth Borne said: “The fact that it was someone close to the far right who launched this fundraising campaign probably doesn’t help to appeaser people.”
Yet, she added that it’s not up to Paris to decide “whether or not a kitty exists”, but up to the “courts”.
GoFundMe have refused to take it down, saying the fund did not break any rules as the money will not be going to fund the officer’s legal fees or defence.
The platform told the French magazine Capital: “The money will be directly given to the family, which has been added as a beneficiary.”
Worries over how law enforcement agencies respond to the poor and racially mixed suburbs have been brewing in France for some time. where Muslim communities of north African descent in particular have raised fears over racial profiling and violent tactics.
The incident last week has also triggered frustration towards to the government, rioting, looting, torching properties.
Only when police issued a strict clampdown over the weekend did the rioters ease off.
The government has blamed juvenile delinquency and low-income urban neighbourhoods instead, sticking to its officially “colourblind” policy.
French president Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday hosted more than 200 mayors at the Elysee Palace to hear what they think of the riots. He previously called Nahel’s death “inexplicable, inexcusable”.