PARIS: A collection for a French policeman who sparked nationwide riots last week by shooting a teenager dead reached more than 986,000 euros ($1.07 million) on Monday, dwarfing donations to the victim’s family.
More than 40,000 people have pledged money to the online fund for the officer, set up on the website Gofundme.com by a far-right media commentator.
The collection easily outstripped the 189,000 euros gathered for the family of the dead 17-year-old,
, who is of north African origin and lived with his mother on a housing estate in a west Paris suburb.
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.”
The shooting, during a traffic stop, has exposed deep political divisions in France.
Many right-wing figures are seeking to defend 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 Tuesday appear to have deepened the polarisation.
Politicians from the centrist ruling party and on the left have condemned the collection for the policeman, which was launched by far-right commentator Jean Messiha — himself close to anti-Islam politician Eric Zemmour.
“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,
, addressed a message to Gofundme, saying they were facilitating a “shameful” collection.
Senior hard-left MP Mathilde Panot highlighted how a collection for a former boxer who had punched several 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 commentator on the right-wing CNews channel and 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 collection, 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 initiative on Monday and said he might contribute.
The officer’s family was “facing difficulties”, he said.
The 38-year-old policeman, named in 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 the car drives off.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the operation was “was obviously not in line with the rules of engagement for police”.
Florien M. also faces charges of making false statements, having initially claimed that he opened fire when Nahel drove towards 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.”