France Violence 2023: What is happening in France?

10 Jul 2023  Read 6837 Views

France continues to burn in the hot flames of revolutionary fire, and in that fire, the social fabric of Europe is being consumed by the blaze. The fire is spreading across the continent, and it is unclear how it will be extinguished. On June 28, 2023,  17-year-old Nahel Merzouk, who was a driver of Algerian origin, was killed by a police officer in the French city of Aubervilliers. The shooting sparked widespread protests and riots in Aubervilliers and other cities across France. But why France is always burning in the fire of protests, riots, and revolutions?

In this article, we will provide an analysis of the riots, with the objective of understanding the underlying causes and implications of the violence in France.

What happened to Nehal, a 17- year old driver of Algerian origin?

  1. Nehal, a 17-year-old, was driving in the wrong lane and failed to comply with the instructions given by the police officers who stopped him. When the officers approached to apprehend him, Nehal's car started moving, prompting one of the officers to unholster his weapon and fatally shoot him.

  2. According to French law and procedures, specific criteria must be met for a police officer to use his weapon against a civilian. Eyewitnesses have reported that no warning shots were fired and that Nehal was subjected to physical violence by the police officers.

  3. It is worth noting that Nehal had no criminal record and was known to the police authorities prior to the incident.

Widespread violence in France after police shot a teenager dead during a  traffic stop
Source: OpIndia

What were the immediate reactions to his death?

1. Killing of Nehal prompted nationwide protests calling for justice, but soon these protests were converted into riots with cases of violent looting of Zara, Nike and Apple stores.

2. Riots and violent protests are cases of racial targeting, and the immigrant problem of France, Lack of cultural integration contributed as well in the wildfire of madness and total chaos in France.

3. Key thing to note here is Nehal's Grandmother claims that these riots and protests are not driven in solidarity with Nehal's death but rioters are using this saddening event as a catalyst to promote their ulterior motive.

French Revolution of 1848 - Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Background of the France Violence

The riots are a complex phenomenon with multiple causes. Some people believe the following are the reasons for the riots, violent protests and mass gatherings in France. 

  1. Riots are considered a reaction to the police shooting of Nahel Merzouk, and protests are a cry for justice, as the majority of protesters are immigrants from African Countries.

  2. Underlying social and economic problems in France, such as Poverty and Color based discrimination, Racism is a major problem in France.

  3. Immigration problems and new controversial laws such as New Immigration Laws and pension reforms are also catalysts in this scenario.

Whatever the reasons, the riots are a serious problem that needs to be addressed. France has a long and turbulent history of revolution. 

  • It is the country where the idea of revolution was truly born. The French Revolution of 1789 was one of the most significant events in modern history, inspiring other revolutions worldwide. The July Revolution of 1830 and the February Revolution of 1848 were also major events that turned the tide for France.  

  •  French people have a long history of challenging the authority of the state, and they are not afraid to take to the streets to protest when they feel that their rights are being violated.

  • Another reason why France has been prone to revolution is that the country has a large and diverse population. This diversity has often led to social and economic tensions, which have sometimes erupted into violence. 

Former French Colonies in Africa Demand a Reset - The New York Times
Source: The New York Times

Colonial Sins

  • Many African countries were under French colonial rule for a long time. In response to which, post World War 2, France answered to wake-up calls of its colonial sins and started inviting immigrants from various parts of the world. 

  • This resulted in a major immigration problem that present-day France and other European countries face. The immigration problem in France is also a major factor in the current unrest. France has a large immigrant population, and many of these immigrants live in poverty and face discrimination.

  • This has created a sense of alienation and resentment among some immigrant communities, which has made them more susceptible to radicalization.

  • The ghetto culture in France is another factor that has contributed to the current unrest. High levels of poverty, unemployment, and crime often characterize ghettos. This creates a breeding ground for social and economic tensions, which can easily erupt into violence.

The current wave of protests and riots in France is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes. However, it is clear that the country's history of revolution, its immigration problem, and its ghetto culture have all played a role in the unrest. It remains to be seen how the government will respond to the protesters' demands, but it is clear that the country is facing a serious challenge.

Macron under fire for saying France wouldn't respond in kind if Russia  launched nuclear attack on Ukraine – POLITICO
Source: Politico

Macron’s Response

"It sometimes feels like some of them are experiencing, on the streets, the video games that have intoxicated them," - Macron 

  • He added that protesters are using Snapchat and TikTok to organize themselves and spread "a mimicking of violence, which for the youngest leads to a kind of disconnect from reality."

  • In this whole scenario of chaos, President Macron is criticised severely for his approach and his administration

  • Macron faced serious backlash for attending Elton John’s Concert as his nation continued to burn to ashes.


The current unrest in France is a reminder that the country's history of revolution is not over. The protesters are demanding fundamental changes to how the country is run, and it remains to be seen whether the government will be able to meet their demands. The shooting of Nahel Merzouk by the police officer was the catalyst that sparked widespread protests and riots, with demands for justice and an end to police brutality.

The law of the land is of utmost importance, and violent protests have no place in any civilised country of the 21st Century. France is known for its liberal policies and approach, often termed as a nation that is “Colour Blind”, but it seems the ground reality differs.

But who is to blame for this wildfire in France? Is it the Migration, Colonial Sins or the lack of Cultural Integration?

Tell us in the comment section below. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What was the cause of the riots in France?

  • The riots were triggered by the shooting of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old of Algerian origin, by a police officer. The protests were initially a cry for justice and an end to police brutality.

  1. Why is France prone to protests and revolutions?

  • France has a long history of revolution, and the people have a strong tradition of challenging the authority of the state. Social and economic tensions, as well as a diverse population, have often led to protests and violence.

  1. How does immigration contribute to the unrest in France?

  • France has a large immigrant population, and many immigrants face poverty and discrimination. This sense of alienation and resentment, coupled with the existence of ghetto culture, has contributed to the unrest.

  1. What other factors have contributed to the current unrest in France?

  • In addition to the shooting and immigration issues and color-based discrimination along with recent laws and the economic crisis have contributed to the current unrest in France. 

  1. How has President Macron responded to the riots?

  • President Macron has faced criticism for his approach to the unrest. His attendance at a concert while the protests continued drew backlash. He also blamed video games like Grand Theft Auto for fueling the violence.

About the Author: Devansh Dixit | 35 Post(s)

Devansh is a 4th-year law student from Amity Law School Noida (Uttar Pradesh), currently interning at Finology Legal. He is specialising in business and commercial laws. 

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