The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old by a police officer in Nanterre, France earlier this week has set off a swath of nationwide riots and violence, resulting in early closures of some cinemas, curfews in certain cities and a plea for calm from the national football team, among more widespread issues.
The killing of the teenager, who has been named only as Nahel M., occurred on Tuesday morning. He was fatally shot in the chest, point-blank, at the wheel of a Mercedes for driving off during a police traffic check. The officer who fired the shot has been detained while being investigated on a charge of voluntary homicide.
Nahel M was of Algerian and Moroccan descent, and anger over the shooting is rooted in decades-long complaints about police violence and persistent feelings of neglect and racial discrimination in France’s poorer urban suburbs, as the New York Times has written.
The situation is also eerily reminiscent of Romain Gavras’ compelling 2022 film Athena which takes place after the death of a boy following an alleged police altercation that sees tensions rise to a national level.
This week, in the early morning hours of Thursday, the UGC Ciné Cité in Cergy outside Paris was set on fire, though damage was controlled. Parent company UGC wrote on Twitter, “We deplore the incidents that took place last night… It is an emblematic place of culture and living together. Thanks to the mobilization of all the staff, the cinema will reopen this Thursday evening.”
Today, however, the cinema’s website carries a notice that reads that it will “exceptionally” not be offering screenings after 6pm.
Cinemas in Lyon have followed in similar fashion with UGC’s Part-Dieu and Confluence locations saying they will not hold any screenings after 5pm local today. The Pathé circuit’s Carré de Soie, Vaise and Bellecour locations in Lyon are all carrying a warning that says: “Given the current circumstances, some of our screenings may be canceled. We invite you to verify schedules.”
Although France’s Interior Ministry described the violence overnight on Friday as being of “lower intensity” than the previous night, more than 1,300 people were arrested. Turmoil continues to grip major cities such as Marseille and Lyon. There have been cars set afire, looting and other damage.
Kylian Mbappé, the recently-anointed captain of France’s national football team, posted a plea on social channels to quell the violence. Saying the team has been “marked and shocked by the brutal death of the young Nahel,” Les Bleus also said, “In this context of extreme tension, we cannot remain silent and our civic conscience encourages us to call for appeasement, awareness and accountability.” Added Mbappé, there are “other peaceful and constructive ways to express yourself.”
Public transport has been curtailed in several areas including Paris, Marseille, Bordeaux and Grenoble while a Mylène Farmer concert at the Stade de France was canceled in the wake.
According to local media, curfews have been put in place in many cities and towns for non-accompanied minors including Colmar, Mulhouse, Tours, Amiens, Châlon-sur-Saône, Rosny-sous-Bois, Asnières-sur-Seine, Cergy-Pontoise, Boulogne-Billancourt, Levallois-Perret, Aulnay-sous-Bois, Saint-Denis and many others – in some cases until July 5.
A Pride celebration in Marseille, which would have marked its 30th anniversary, was also postponed.
Meanwhile, the annual Fête du Cinéma three-day discount scheme launches tomorrow and will likely be impacted by the ongoing strife.