France | Far-right, far-right reactions, France, Nahel, Riots | 07/03/2023

I’ll put a bullet in your head!

How French far-right and conservatives reacted to Nahel’s murder by a policeman

By Toufik-de-Planoise – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

On June 27th, 2023, a 17-year-old boy, Nahel, was shot dead by a police officer during a traffic stop in Nanterre, a western suburb of Paris. A witness filmed the scene; the policeman yells, “I’ll put a bullet in your head,” and shoots him despite the absence of imminent danger. For five days and nights, primarily young people from housing projects have revolted in the suburbs of all major and even some medium-sized cities in France.

Political instrumentalization by far-right and right parties

The partisan far-right is using the murder to promote support for the actions of the police at all costs. As is their habit, they insist on the constant need to increase security, especially in poor and marginalized neighborhoods, and to target descendants of immigrants who, in their minds, would be the source of insecurity and fear in the country. 

Rassemblement National (RN, far right)

Jordan Bardella, RN president and MEP, declared on June 30th on BFMTV, “We need a total mobilization of all police forces, the responsibilization of all parents, the sanction of the evident educational lacks, an immediate moratorium on immigration and the immediate and strict sanction of the attacks on police forces.” RN-Deputy Jérôme Buisson tweeted after the first night of rebellion about “the police who were already busy with the race riots.” His colleague Grégoire de Fournas wrote, “There wouldn’t have been a single garbage can burnt last night if there hadn’t been fifty years of lawless immigration.” But overall, the RN and especially Marine Le Pen, in their strategy of respectability, were relatively quiet in the first days, unlike Reconquête and LR, who need to appear very active. For now, their main targets seem to be left-wing parties and, foremost, LFI (from Libération).

Reconquête ! (R!, far right)

On the first night after Nahel’s assassination, Eric Zemmour declared on Twitter,  ”Tonight, the foreign enclaves has once again shown what they were able to do: #riots, attacks, fires, lootings, ransackings of public services that we have paid billions for over the years. As always, it is the submission that incites criminals. The government and the left bear a huge share of responsibility. Only firmness will be able to bring order and peace back. I call for a state of emergency to be declared from tonight on.” Zemmour also insists on “fierce repression” and speaks of “civil war” and even “ethnic” or “racial war” (from La Dépêche). Some Reconquête local representatives like Philippe Vardon in Nizza or local activists in Valenciennes or Côte d’Or support the police forces by bringing them Viennoiseries pastries at the main police stations.

Les Républicains (LR, conservative) 

Like Zemmour and RN spokesperson Sébastien Chenu, LR-president Eric Ciotti also demands a state of emergency after two nights of revolt. In 2015 a state of emergency was declared under similar circumstances after 12 days of rebellion against the death of two youngsters fleeing the police (from Huffington Post). He also posted a photo of Charles Pasqua (far-right conservative minister of the interior in the 1980-1990s, when the young student Malik Oussekine was beaten to death by policemen in 1986) with the words “With him, the State knew how to be respected!” (from Libération). 

As Zemmour, Guilhem Carayon, LR-spokesman and leader of the “young republicans,” spoke of “foreign enclaves.” As a reminder, he interviewed the RN and Reconquête youth organization leaders, who found they were “on the same side” and could “win together.” François-Xavier Bellamy, LR MP, claims, “If this youth has died, this is first because he was trying to escape from a police control.” 

Renaissance (moderate to conservative)

Emmanuel Macron, president of the republic, first declared this murder as “We have got a killed youth, it is unacceptable and inexcusable. […] Nothing, nothing justifies a youth’s death” (Le Parisien newspaper) on June 28th, 2023, the day after Nahel’s murder. Before denouncing three days later, on June 30th, during an interministerial crisis unit, “an unacceptable instrumentalization of the death of a youth that we deplore, when it should be a time for mourning and respect.” 

Within Macron’s party, Renaissance, some MPs like Caroline Abadie, put into question the fact that Nahel was supposedly already known by the police services (which was in question on the first day but which has since been denied – from France 24) and that his refusal to obey to the police control would be one of the reasons he was shot. As a reminder, she declared on June 27th on La Chaîne Parlementaire (LCP), “It is the police that has the right to use force […] “When there is a police control, we have to stop. That’s it.

Calls and actions by identitarian and far-right groups

Julien Rochedy, former FNJ leader (youth organization of the FN, now RN) and former supporter of Zemmour, tweeted, “The police must seem to give in. The bourgeois have to get scared. Things have to burn in the bobo neighborhoods. They have to realize what they’ve done and end up giving us power with a shudder” (from Libération). A post on a far-right Telegram channel stated, “Insurrection in the housing projects? Let us handle it !… The system is abandoning our territories? With 10,000 men, we can reconquer them overnight. Who will follow us ?

On their channels, GUD quoted the French antisemitic and collaborationist writer, Céline, “The suburbs can’t be fixed, they have to be destroyed, dissolved. It’s the bead of infection, the suburbs, that maintains, preserves all the rottenness of the city” (from Libe). 

In Lyon, far-right activists tagged over support messages for Nahel and against police violence, transforming them into hate messages and calls for murder. 

In Lorient (southern Brittany), “a group of around thirty masked and hooded individuals, claiming to be “anti-rioters,” put “flex-bands around the wrists” of some of the youngsters, before presenting them to the police, reports a witness” (from newspaper Le Télégramme). A witness saw policemen “act as a link between the milita and the rest of the police force.” (From Ouest France)

On June 30th in Angers, known members of the group “Alvarium,” which was dissolved in 2021, were seen (1, 2, 3) attacking participants of a demonstration against police violence (from Guillerme Captant and Libération). On July 1st, the members of now “Rassemblement des étudiants de droite (RED) Angers” (union of right-wing students) were again masked and armed with sticks in the city center but protected by police in their HQ (from Ouest France). One of the aggressors, spotted on Jun 30th, has been identified as a nationalist from Italy, with ties to Gesende Barrera of the “Blocco Studentesco” from Florence and who traveled to Ukraine with known far-right activist Jean-Eudes Gannat. “RED Angers” went to Lviv in April 2022 to support Ukrainian ultranationalists of “Pravy Sektor.” 

A racist gathering was announced on July 1st evening in Chambéry (Haute Savoie) for “the French victims of the riots.” Fifteen identified as neo-nazis of “Edelweiss Pays de Savoie” and the biker club “Badass MC Savoie” marched through the streets shouting, “French man, wake up, this is your home.” The police just followed them (and, in passing, controlling a car with non-white people in it).

Far-right tendencies in the French Police

Alliance police, known as a far-right union, and UNSA, known as a more moderate union (until now), have published a joint press release on June 30th calling to “put the arrested out of action” to struggle against “these violent minorities” and “pests” as well to organize themselves. “Today, policemen are in combat because we are at war. Tomorrow, we’ll be in resistance, and the government will have to become aware of this“. 

Police officers have been seen wearing far-right and royalist symbols on their uniforms over the last few days. 

Several MPs, like green MEP Karima Delli or left French MP Ugo Bernalicis, have initiated a court case against these police unions for “calls to sedition” (from Libération). Laurent Jacobelli, RN-spokesman, said he “wouldn’t have used the same terms” but spoke about “wild hordes” and called for law and order, full support for all police officers, just before criticizing the left-wing magistrates union for having written about systemic violence in the french police (from France Info). 

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, declared on June 30th, “It is time for France to tackle the deep-seated racism and discrimination problems among the French police forces.” Only two weeks earlier, Alhoussein Camara, another young man, was shot dead by police in Angoulême (western France). But neither video nor witnesses were there to bring testimony, like in most cases (from Charente Libre and Médiapart). As a reminder, the number of persons killed by the police in France has been on a constant rise since 2015 (from Basta !), reaching a peak of 52 deads in 2021 or 861 persons since 1977 (from Basta !). As another reminder: Between 50% and 60% of French police and military personnel voted and intended to vote for the far-right in the last presidential elections of 2017 and 2022. (from Libération)