Jul 4, 2023, 6:20am EDT

What to know: Europe’s far right are capitalizing on the France riots

A French firefighter works to extinguish a burning car during the fifth day of protests following the death of Nahel, a 17-year-old teenager killed by a French police officer in Nanterre during a traffic stop, in Tourcoing, France, July 2, 2023. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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The News

Far-right politicians in Europe have seized on rioting in France over the fatal police shooting of Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old of North African descent, to push anti-immigration rhetoric.

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  • Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National has capitalized on the unrest, sending out recruitment emails with a call to “restore order to France.” The move appears to be working: In a recent opinion poll more people approved of Le Pen’s response to the violence than that of French President Emmanuel Macron. While the RN leader herself has maintained a more measured tone in her comments, party chief Jordan Bardella launched a tirade against the “savage hordes” who have taken to the streets. — Financial Times
  • It’s not just French politicians who are seizing on the moment. In Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is using the situation to reject proposed EU migration policies, writing on Twitter that Polish people “don’t want such scenes on Polish streets,” adding “stop illegal migration. Safety first.”
  • In Italy, Nicola Molteni, Northern League undersecretary for the Interior, said in an interview that France’s “open door” immigration model has led to a “profound crisis.” He said that suburbs in the country, which are largely populated by North African migrants and other ethnic minorities, have become a “no-man’s land.” — Il Giornale (Italian-language link)
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Know More

Adding to the tensions in the riots is the link between systemic over-policing of France’s North African communities, and France’s vision of itself as a color-blind society. The country does not collect race-based data, so has no formal tracking on incidents of police violence against the country’s ethnic minorities.

The far-right rhetoric doesn’t end with European politicians. A fundraiser in support of the police officer who is alleged to have shot Merzouk at point-blank range has garnered €1 million ($1 million) in donations, significantly more than has been donated to the teen’s family.