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Violence and Destruction in France after Nahel M. Who Benefits?

France protests Nahel M, June/July 2023
Justice pour Nahel

Protests serve as a powerful expression of our human rights, allowing individuals to voice their concerns and demand change. However, it is unfortunate that these demonstrations sometimes escalate into violence and chaos. The recent protest in France serves as a vivid example of a peaceful gathering that quickly spiraled into a destructive riot. Protesters resorted to setting shops, cars, and public properties on fire, and even targeted the home of a mayor, causing considerable damage and endangering lives.

The initial catalyst for this protest was the tragic shooting of a seventeen-year-old named Nahel M by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in a Paris suburb. This incident sparked both peaceful demonstrations and violent clashes. It is worth noting that the officer involved has since been charged with voluntary homicide, indicating the seriousness of the event and the need for accountability.

However, amidst the protests and acts of violence, it is crucial to consider who truly benefits from such actions. Videos capturing looting and vandalism during the protests in France demonstrate that these acts only reinforce negative stereotypes, particularly those targeting Black and Arab communities. The focus of the protests can become overshadowed by chaos, and the important message behind the movement can be lost.

Unfortunately, this pattern of peaceful protests turning violent is not unique to France. Nigeria experienced an analogous situation during the ENDSAR protest, which initially aimed to bring attention to police brutality. However, the protest was eventually hijacked by individuals who saw it as an opportunity for personal gain, resulting in looting and damage to government property. In the aftermath, the cost of transportation increased due to the damage inflicted on government buses, and the changes the protesters sought were not fully realized. The protest message was diluted, and the victims of violence received no justice, with the government even denying the shooting despite overwhelming evidence.

While there have been historic protests that successfully brought about meaningful change, such as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 2017 women's march, and the Black Lives Matter movement, it is important to acknowledge that violent protests do not lead to the desired outcomes. Instead, they tend to benefit opportunistic individuals and corporations, diverting attention away from the core message of the protests.

In conclusion, while protests are a fundamental expression of our rights, it is disheartening to witness how they can devolve into violence and destruction. The recent protests in France and Nigeria serve as reminders of the potential consequences when peaceful demonstrations lose control. It is crucial for protesters to remain committed to non-violence, as history has shown that true change can be achieved through peaceful means, fostering constructive dialogue, and raising awareness about critical issues.


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