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Million euros pledged for French policeman who sparked riots

France beefs up New Year's security due to 'terrorist' threat
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A collection for a French policeman who sparked nationwide riots by shooting a teenager dead topped one million euros ($1.1 million) Monday, dwarfing donations to the victim’s family.

More than 40,000 people have pledged money to the online appeal set up by a far-right media commentator on the website.

It easily outstripped the 200,000 euros gathered for the family of the dead 17-year-old, Nahel, who was of north African origin.

Nahel’s grandmother said she was “heartbroken” by the support shown for the policeman.

“He took the life of my grandson. This man must pay, the same as everyone,” she told the BFM channel on Sunday. “I have confidence in the justice system. I believe in justice.”

Tuesday’s shooting during a traffic stop in a suburb west of Paris has exposed deep political divisions in France.

Many right-wing figures have defended the security forces, while those on the left see the death as a consequence of systemic racism in the police.

Widespread rioting and looting since appear to have deepened the polarisation.

Politicians from the left and the ruling centrist party have condemned the collection for the policeman, which was launched by far-right media commentator Jean Messiha.

“Jean Messiha is playing with fire,” ruling party MP Eric Bothorel wrote on Twitter, calling it “indecent and scandalous”.

The head of the Socialist party, Olivier Faure attacked Gofundme, saying it was facilitating a “shameful” collection.

Senior hard-left MP Mathilde Panot highlighted how a collection for a former boxer who had punched police officers during “Yellow Vest” anti-government demonstrations in 2019 had been quickly closed by authorities.

“Killing a young North African in France in 2023 can earn you a lot of money,” she wrote.

Messiha, a former advisor to far-right leader Marine Le Pen, celebrated on Twitter when his fund overtook the one for the family of Nahel at the weekend.

When launching the appeal, he said it was for an officer who was “doing his work and is paying a heavy price”.

The head of the right-wing Republicans party, Eric Ciotti, defended the collection on Monday and said he might contribute.

The officer’s family was “facing difficulties”, he said.

The 38-year-old policeman, named by French media as Florian M., has been detained and charged with voluntary manslaughter.

In a video of the shooting, he can be seen with a colleague stopping a yellow Mercedes which Nahel was driving without a licence in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre on Tuesday morning.

The officer has his weapon drawn and shoots Nahel at point-blank range as he drives off.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said it “was obviously not in line with the rules of engagement for police”.

Florian M. also faces charges of making false statements, having initially claimed that he opened fire when Nahel drove at him.

Another teenager in the car told media after the incident that the officers had hit Nahel with the butts of their guns before opening fire.

A voice can be heard on the video saying: “You are going to get a bullet in the head.”

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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