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The Violent Protests in France are Not Because of their Migratory Present

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The violent protests in France taking to the streets of the European country result from profound inequality and discrimination. It is not the diversity motive.

protests in France

Photo: Ambito

Latinamerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández

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Leer en español: Las violentas protestas en Francia no es por su presente migratorio

On social media, messages abound blaming cultural diversity and the problems of adaptation of minorities, mainly African and Muslim. However, this is a blinkered view of reality and French tradition. It is also an ignorance of the deep structural problems of European and French society.

More than a consequence of immigration and the lack of integration of these groups into French society, it is the consequence of years and years of discrimination. It is also the result of an anti-globalist and nationalist discourse that has been exalting itself for some time and has helped raise extreme right-wing parties across the continent.

Nahel's Case

Last week, on 27 June, a 17-year-old named Nahel was killed by French police. As it later transpired, the minor was driving a car and was stopped by the police. After the authorities asked for his identification, Nahel did not obey and fled but was fatally shot by the police.

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The adolescent from a migrant background was part of an integration project through sport, as reported by his family. The young man worked as a delivery boy to continue contributing to his family's livelihood.

Nahel was the "prototype" of the migrant, consistently called for by extreme right-wing groups. He is a young man searching for cultural integration, hard-working, and far from illegal activities, as his family and friends tell us.

Nahel and her friends, and many of those marching today, are residents of the suburbs of France's major cities. Those impoverished and inhabited neighborhoods, particularly by migrant and refugee families, are today demanding justice and better conditions. They are communities with the highest rates of unemployment and lack of opportunities. Nahel is today's story, but it is not the first. In 2005, a case caused a commotion when three young teenagers fled in fear of the police after playing football. Subsequent investigations determined that although they had not committed any offense, they were chased by the police. The youths hid in an electrical substation, which resulted in the death of 2 of them. A story of police mistrust, persecution, and lack of opportunities, regardless of their origin or religion.

Police Abuse

Another problem that has become evident with Nahel's death and is one reason for the protests is the background of police abuse. According to France 24, from 2012 to 2016, French authorities used their firearms against moving vehicles 506 times. In 2017 and 2021, this number rose to 837. Last year, 13 people died at the hands of the police after disobeying orders.

The case of the murdered young man has the particularity that it was recorded and shows how the police officers decide to use their firearm without a clear threat to their lives. This argument is used by Nahel's family's lawyer, who claims it is an apparent excess of force. This unleashed the anger of the marginalized sectors of France who felt the police persecution and abuse the authorities.

Years of denial caused what is happening in France today and could spread to several European countries. Today's discontent and anger are even more significant, so it can no longer tolerate lukewarm measures but serious policies.

Violence in France

However, beyond the violence in the protests seen on social media, this is not a migrant phenomenon. France is a traditionally revolutionary country. Not only because of the violent French Revolution that left 16,594 people dead , of whom 2,622 were executed in Paris by guillotine. There are also recent protests that generated waves of violence.

The well-known protest of the yellow waistcoats, which started over a rise in petrol prices in 2018 and gathered many supporters, ended with more than 4,400 injured police and civilians. A month ago, the demonstrations against a pension reform left police and protesters injured. Or the 450 wounded in the marches on May 1st .

Historic Context

In addition, most migrants in France are from former colonies of the French Empire. Young Africans and Middle Easterners are the product of a colonialist and exploitative past. France was one of the global powers that exploited foreign lands, invaded territories, and enriched its empire. Today, these lands come to France in search of refuge and better opportunities.

According to Le Monde, in 2023, France will have 3.8 million foreigners with residence permits. The countries of origin of most of them are Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Côte d'Ivoire, all former colonies with cultural and historical ties to the European power. It is naïve to think that the wealth France enjoys today was not built, to a large extent, by plundering and exploiting several of its colonies, which are now considered poor, violent, and without opportunities.