Death of Nahel: 64 arrested in Brussels as mass riots spread over France

Death of Nahel: 64 arrested in Brussels as mass riots spread over France
The site of the incident near Anneessens in Brussels. Credit: Belga/ Hatim Kaghat

A total of 64 people were arrested in the incidents that took place in Brussels on Thursday evening in protest over the shooting of a 17-year-old by a police officer in France.

One minor was judicially arrested in Brussels (meaning the person was taken to a police station and questioned) after he was seen beating and wounding a police officer, the City of Brussels/ Ixelles local police wrote in a statement on Friday morning.

"The minor was released on Friday morning after questioning," the police stated. Another 47 minors and 16 adults were administratively detained, which is a preventive deprivation of liberty by the police.

Cat-and-mouse game

During the day, calls circulated on social media to gather in Brussels and protest in response to the death of 17-year-old Nahel, who was shot to death by a police officer in the French city of Nanterre during a traffic stop on Tuesday. Riots consequently broke out in French cities.

In Brussels, young people gathered in several municipalities on Thursday night, resulting in a cat-and-mouse game with the security forces, who had mobilised in large numbers to quell any riots.

Finally, riots took place in and around the Anneessens neighbourhood, where there was a massive police presence, and at the nearby Midi (South) Station. Police swiftly activated the highest level of ground response, meaning the chief of police took charge of coordinating the operation.

People looking on at the police presence in the city centre of Brussels. Credit: Belga/ Hatim Kaghat

Lemonnier Avenue was briefly barricaded with scooters and cardboard but with the help of local residents was quickly cleared. Brussels public transport operator STIB also had bus and tram traffic diverted at several points.

Fires were set, including on rue des Artsesia in Brussels and at Place de la Constitution in Saint-Gilles. The fire brigade quickly extinguished these, though one car was brunt in the process.

The police have said they will be "closely monitoring the situation" in the coming days.

Situation in France

During another night of riots in Paris and several other French cities, 667 people were arrested during the night from Thursday to Friday, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced.

Tweet translation: "Last night, our police officers, gendarmes and firefighters once again bravely confronted a rare act of violence. In accordance with my firm instructions, they made 667 arrests."

A total of 40,000 police officers and gendarmes were deployed to deal with violence, four times more than the number of security forces deployed the night before.

French President Emmanuel Macron will preside over the second inter-ministerial crisis cell in two days on Friday afternoon at 13:00 following the unrest in several French cities. For this meeting, he may have to return earlier from the European summit held in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

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Meanwhile, the police officer who fired the shot has apologised to Nahel's family, his lawyer, Master Laurent-Franck Liénard, said on BFMTV. The officer in question has been charged with voluntary manslaughter and remanded in custody.

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