Macron goes to Elton John gig as Paris burns in mass protests

French president hits out at ‘totally unjustifiable’ attacks on public buildings after boy, 17, shot dead by police

Andy Gregory
Friday 30 June 2023 10:29 BST
Emmanuel Macron attends Elton John concert during Paris riots

Emmanuel Macron has sparked anger by attending an Elton John concert in Paris as riots raged in France over the police killing of a teenage delivery driver.

Hundreds have been arrested so far over three nights of furious protests since the boy identified only as Nahel M, a 17-year-old of North African heritage, was fatally shot in the chest by police in the suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday after driving away from officers trying to pull him over.

The following night, as more than 130 people were arrested and fires raged on French streets for a second evening, the president and his wife Brigitte attended the British singer’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour at the Accor Arena in Paris.

Follow live coverage of the Paris riots in our live blog here.

Footage showed him tapping his foot along to the 76-year-old pianist as he performed hits such as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and “Burn Down the Mission”.

Elton and his husband David Furnish also posted a photo on Instagram on Thursday showing them meeting with the Macrons.

Thierry Mariani, an MEP with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, described Mr Macron as “totally irresponsible” and quoted Ecclesiastes as he said: “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child”, adding: “While France was on fire, Macron preferred to applaud Elton John.”

“Wrong timing,” one Instagram user wrote beneath Mr Furnish’s photograph, while another remarked: “Macron is below everything.” Another added: “At the same time a child was killed by police under his government, he's enjoying a show. Disgrace on Macron.”

Following an EU summit at Brussels, Mr Macron was set to return to hold a fresh emergency meeting on Friday, after what interior minister Gerald Darminin called a night of “rare violence”, in which 40,000 police officers were deployed 667 people arrested as part of government efforts to be “extremely firm” with protesters.

Police forces clash with protesters in Nanterre

While Mr Macron initially struck a conciliatory tone, calling Nahel’s death “inexplicable and unforgivable”, his response has hardened as violence intensified, denouncing attacks on public buildings as “totally unjustifiable” and voicing his gratitude for riot police battling with protesters.

On Thursday night, protesters erected barricades, lit fires and shot fireworks at police, while armoured police vehicles rammed through the charred remains of cars that had been flipped and set ablaze in Nanterre.

On the other side of Paris, protesters lit a fire at the city hall of the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and set a bus depot ablaze in Aubervilliers, while some shops were looted.

Schools and police stations also were targeted by people setting fires, and police used tear gas, water cannons and dispersion grenades against rioters, a police spokesperson said.

It followed a peaceful vigil on Thursday organised by Nahel’s mother Mounia, who led the procession from a flatbed lorry, holding a poster saying, “Police kill”, and raising a red flare as the march reached the local courthouse, while the crowds chanted her son’s name.

Mounia attended Thursday’s march in tribute to her son in Nanterre

The officer accused of pulling the trigger at 9am on Tuesday has been charged preliminarily with voluntary homicide, after prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigations indicated “the conditions for the legal use of the weapon were not met.”

Mr Prache said officers tried to stop Nahel because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish number plates in a bus lane.

He allegedly drove through a red light to avoid being stopped before getting stuck in traffic, and the officer who fired the shot said he feared he, his colleague or a bystander could be hit by the car, Mr Prache said.

Firefighters douse the flames of a hotel set on fire on Thursday night

While the teenager’s family and their lawyers are reported not to have said the police shooting was race-related, his death has intensified anger among activists about police misconduct.

“We have to go beyond saying that things need to calm down,” said Dominique Sopo, head of the campaign group SOS Racisme. “The issue here is how do we make it so that we have a police force that when they see Blacks and Arabs, don’t tend to shout at them, use racist terms against them and in some cases, shoot them in the head.”

Speaking to the news site Blast, Mounia said her only child had been “a respectful, kind boy”, adding: “My life, my heart was taken away from me. I miss him. It’s painful.”

The Independent has approached the Elysee Palace for comment.

Additional reporting by AP

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