The grandmother of 17-year-old Nahel M has called for calm after days of unrest in France over his fatal shooting during a routine police traffic check.
“The people who are breaking things right now, I tell them: stop it,” the woman identified as Nadia by French media told BFMTV on Sunday.
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“They used Nahel as an excuse,” she added.
The shooting of the teenager of North African origin, caught on video, has reignited long-standing complaints about police violence and racism by poor and racially mixed urban communities.
Several hundred people on Saturday rallied at Nanterre’s grand mosque, in the Paris suburbs, to express their support for the family as the teenager was buried.
Then, for a fifth night in a row, rioters damaged and ransacked shops, burned cars and buses, and violently clashed with 45,000 police officers sent across the country to quell France’s worst social upheaval in years.
‘Horror and disgrace’
Politicians condemned the attack on the home of Vincent Jeanbrun, the right-wing mayor of L’Hay-les-Roses outside Paris, in which assailants rammed a burning car into his home with the aim of setting it on fire.
Jeanbrun’s wife and children, aged five and seven, were at home while the mayor was out. His wife was “badly injured”, sustaining a broken leg. Prosecutors opened an attempted murder investigation.
“Last night the horror and disgrace reached a new level,” the mayor said in a statement.
Some 7,000 police were deployed in Paris and its suburbs alone, including along the Champs Elysees avenue in the capital, a tourist hot spot, following calls on social media to take the rioting to the heart of the city.
“The cars have done nothing against you, the schools have done nothing against you, the buses have done nothing against you,” Nadia said. “Do not damage the schools, do not damage the buses, it’s the moms who take the buses.”
‘My heart aches’
While the killing of her grandson upended her life and that of her daughter, Nahel’s mother, Nadia said did not wish ill on the policeman but wanted justice to run its course. The officer was immediately detained for voluntary manslaughter.
“I have faith in the judiciary,” she said, adding the policeman who fired the fatal shot was the one who should pay, and she did not hold a grudge against the entire police force.
Asked about a crowdfunding campaign that received pledges of more than 670,000 euros ($731,000) for the police officer charged over the shooting, Nadia said: “My heart aches.”
More than 200 police officers were reported injured as of Saturday, according to the Ministry of the Interior.
The average age of those arrested was 17.
Nahel was known to police for previously failing to comply with traffic stop orders and was illegally driving a rental car, the Nanterre prosecutor said.
Residents of Arab and African origins have complained of systemic racism in French law enforcement agencies.
French President Emmanuel Macron has denied a problem exists and urged parents to keep child rioters off the streets.