Riots in France: what needs to change?


Serious riots again broke out on Thursday night between demonstrators and police in French cities. These included the Paris suburb of Nanterre following a march paying tribute to 17-year-old Nahel, who was shot and killed at a traffic check on Tuesday. Time and again, police checks in France have resulted in deaths and riots. Commentators draw parallels and call for consequences.


Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

A bad old tradition

For the Süddeutsche Zeitung, France clearly has a problem with police violence:

“It’s practically impossible to keep track of the number of cases documenting clearly abusive behaviour by the security forces. To make matters worse, the police have been armed with rubber bullets and other controversial weapons. ... In line with their bad old tradition, the police in France do not primarily protect the citizens. They protect the state. This basic attitude permeates all units, from the special forces to the traffic police. De-escalation is alien to many. As long as nothing changes, incidents like this will keep happening. And the violence will not stop. On either side.”

Thomas Kirchner
Libération (FR) /

Legitimate anger

We should show understanding for the protest movements, Libération urges:

“The point is not necessarily to approve of the protests but to understand them. For some, they seem to be the only way to draw attention to the double injustice of brutality and impunity. If the law allows the security forces to use their firearms even when they are not acting in self-defence, society must at least recognise the right to legitimate anger.”

Didier Fassin
La Tribune de Genève (CH) /

Black and white thinking no good

La Tribune de Genève criticises the unproductive debate on the subject:

“There is no denying it: police violence exists and it often eludes the law. ... But on the other side is the victim, young Nahel, whom footballer Kylian Mbappé called ‘a little angel’. ... The ‘little angel’ was, at least on that morning, an offender who deliberately chose to take a risk. He paid far too dearly for it, but if he hadn’t got behind the wheel he would still be alive. If he had obeyed the police, he would still be alive. In the political debate in France, these two truths are never considered together. It’s a pathetic, sad debate that fuels further violence because each side only sees the other side’s violence.”

Alain Rebetez