[Episcopal News Service] Thousands of protesters have been arrested since Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old boy of Algerian descent, was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop June 27 in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris, France.
In a message to Episcopal congregations in Europe, the Rt. Rev. Mark Edington, bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, said that Merzouk’s death reflects other killings of people of color at the hands of police, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“It is a story that has played out again and again in so many of the countries where we live, and whence we have come; a young man of color, an encounter with the police, a gunshot, and a needless, unjustifiable death,” Edington said. “White supremacy is many things, but it is at least this: the indulgence, on a vast and societal scale, of a long-inherited, generationally transmitted, and legally buttressed fear — a sickly, desperate fear. It is a fear so seductive that it masquerades as righteousness and poses as wisdom.”
Merzouk, a pizza delivery driver, was pulled over by two police officers for allegedly speeding and running a red stoplight, endangering a pedestrian and a cyclist. One of the officers, currently unnamed, then shot Merzouk, citing self-defense. The officer presently faces voluntary manslaughter charges.
French president Emmanuel Macron has also condemned the killing of Merzouk.
Protests erupted throughout France and other countries after video footage of the shooting went viral on social media, leading to riots in Paris and its suburbs. Paris is home to the American Cathedral, and the convocation’s churches are located throughout Europe.
France has been experiencing a rise in police violence since a law passed in 2017 permitting police to shoot at vehicles fleeing traffic stops if they put passersby in danger. Additionally, young Black and Arab men are more likely to be profiled and stopped by French police, according to a study from 2017.
Human beings are often driven by fear of “the other — the person of color, the foreigner, the refugee,” Edington said.
“Fear is the beguiling serpent justifying the choice of life-destroying path,” he said. “There will be justice for Nahel, and Michael, and Makomé, and Breonna, and Patrick, and George, and so many, many others only when we finally risk living as Christ calls us to live — with a fearlessness rooted in love that is, in the end, the ground on which we stand and the spirit by which we live.”
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.