Black Rose / Rosa Negra Introduction
For days now, riots have rocked cities across France. This uprising comes in response to the police murder of French born Algerian teenager Naël M. (also stylized ‘Nahel’ and ‘Nael’) on June 27 in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris.
For those viewing these events from a US perspective, it is hard not to draw parallels between the scale, intensity, and catalyst of this current uprising in France and that which took place in the US during the Summer of 2020. As we can see with the statement below, the comrades of our sibling organization Union Communiste Libertaire (UCL) have drawn similar connections.
The uprising in France illuminates that, while acknowledging the specificity of cultural, social, political, and historical contexts, the struggle against racialized state violence is transnational.
This text has been slightly edited for clarity.
The original French version can be found here: “La police assassine : justice et vérité pour Nahel et toutes les victimes”.
Police Murder: Justice and Truth for Naël and All the Other Victims
On the night of June 27-28, riots broke out in the city of Nanterre to denounce yet another murder committed by a police officer.
His name was Naël, and he was 17 years old. Naël died on June 27, 2023 in his car: he was shot at point blank range by a police officer after he refused to comply. He was on a bus lane and attempted to escape after being threatened with death by the policeman, who already had his gun pointed at him.
The police immediately issued a version in which they claimed the car had rammed into the them, while the media were quick to point to the victim’s criminal record. Yet video footage of the scene shows that the police officers were standing on the sides of Naël’s car, which was stationary at first, meaning that their lives were at no time threatened.
As cases like this one are becoming an increasingly common sight, the rhetoric used is often the same: the idea is to depict the victim as a bad person, a thug, poorly integrated into the wider society. On the one hand, the media pass on this information without checking its accuracy, and more often that not it turns to be a lie or an overstatement. Secondly, and more importantly, even when the facts are true, they in no way justify murder, nor can they be used as mitigating circumstances for intent to kill. The only purpose this narrative serves is to establish and normalize police impunity in cases of racist crime.
It cannot be stressed enough that without a video, the victims’ word isn’t worth anything. Or to be more precise, it isn’t worth anything when it’s a member of the forces of law and order that is under scrutiny. No matter whether the exact same scenario repeats itself over and over again.
This is no less than the thirteenth homicide perpetrated by the police following a refusal to comply since the beginning of the year. Only five of the thirteen police officers responsible have been charged, the others having been released without prosecution to date. This is an exceptional figure, one that isn’t unrelated to the 2017 law modifying police officers’ right to use their weapon.
However, we shouldn’t be surprised to see a rise in violence, particularly racist violence, given that terms such as “decivilization”, “Great Replacement” or “descent into savagery”1 are being used by top State officials when discriminatory laws are voted on or put to the vote. Where do you think policies that appropriate the themes of white supremacists are going to lead?
State racism culminates in institutions, in this case the police. The violence it creates is permitted and tolerated by the powers-that-be, who are quick to put the far left and far right on an equal footing, as in the case of the attack on the mayor of Saint-Brévin following the creation of an Asylum Seekers Reception Center in his commune2.
Let’s not kid ourselves. If the policeman took the liberty of pulling the trigger at point-blank range, it’s because he didn’t think there would be any consequences; it’s because, in his view, Naël’s life was worthless, in his eyes and in the eyes of society.
Can we still blame police killings solely on individuals? Was he just a bad cop? No!
It is unbearable to reduce all of this to a mere matter of individual “blunder”. It’s nothing short of a form of racism that the state pretends not to see—one that effectively authorizes killing. It is more than urgent to express radical criticism towards the national police force, a racist and colonial institution, plagued by the far right, which terrorizes a whole section of the population with the utmost impunity.
Victims of police racism have been denouncing it for years. The denial of their fundamental rights is not related to their activism or their opposition to a given reform such as that of the pension system; the simple fact of existing brings them face to face with it. Exiles particularly suffer from this violence, whether in the cemetery that has become the Mediterranean, in Calais, in Mayotte, or in the administrative detention centers where Mohamed, a 59-year-old man, died a month ago after being beaten by police officers.
These crimes are part of a long list that goes back to 40 years, if not more (let us recall the mass crimes of October 17, 1961). Many names come to mind: Malik Oussekine, Abdel Benahya, Zied and Bouna, Moshin and Lakhamy, Akim Ajimi, Ali Ziri, Mamadou Marega, Wissam El Yamni, Amine Bentounsi, Angelo Garan, Gaye Camara, Liu Shaoyao, Babacar Gaye, Steve Maya Caniço, Claude Jean-Pierre, and many more… Ever since the strong demonstrations demanding truth and justice for Adama Traoré, whose family has been suffering unbelievable repression for 5 years, and 3 years after the worldwide mobilizations for George Floyd, we have been constantly denied answers.
In the current context of widespread repression, we believe that the revolts that began in Nanterre are an integral part of the social movement3. It’s about demanding justice and truth for Naël and the other victims of police crime—and we support these demands.
Our thoughts are with the relatives of the victims of these police murders.
In the immediate future, we demand justice and truth for Naël, the repeal of the Global Security and Separatism laws4, and the disarmament of the police.
Popular unity in the face of racism and police violence!
We also relay the call from Naël’s family for a white march tomorrow (June 29) at 2pm in Nanterre.
Union Communiste Libertaire, June 28th, 2023
- In French this phrase appears as “ensauvagement“. It is a racist signifier meant to invoke images of a descent into social savagery catalyzed by immigration of ‘less civilized peoples’ to Western countries. It first appeared in a 2013 book by far-right author Laurent Obertone and was later popularized by French presidential candidate and rabid nationalist Marine Le Pen.
- ‘Communes’ in France are similar to municipalities in the United States. It is an administrative designation.
- “Social Movement” is applied here in a broad way. It is meant to indicate that this uprising is an articulation of political and social sentiment, rather than just an anti-social outburst.
- For more information on these laws, we recommend this short primer: “Global Security” and “Separatisms”: How the French Government is Expanding State Power and Promoting “Republican Values”.
This statement was written by our sibling organization Union Communiste Libertaire (Libertarian Communist Union). Founded in 2019 as a fusion of Alternative Libertaire (AL) and Coordination des groupes anarchistes (CGA), today UCL has dozens of local groupings across France and other French speaking regions.
You can visit their website at: www.unioncommunistelibertaire.org