What’s behind the unrest in France?

Violent riots convulsed French cities for the second night in a row on Wednesday, with protesters burning cars, setting fire to buildings and vandalizing and lighting fireworks outside police stations.

About 180 people were arrested and 170 officers were injured, France’s interior minister said. The unrest was in response to the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old by a police officer in Nanterre, a suburb west of Paris, on Tuesday.

Here is what to know about the violence:

On Tuesday morning, a police officer shot and killed a 17-year-old boy, who has been identified only as Nahel M., while the teenager was driving. The prosecutor in Nanterre said Nahel was driving in a bus lane and, when officers tried to stop him, drove through a red light to get away.

He was killed by a single shot that went through his left arm and chest, the prosecutor said. Two people were in the vehicle, a Mercedes-AMG, in addition to the driver, the prosecutor’s office said: One was released after questioning; the other was still being sought after fleeing the scene.

Initial reports in the French news media, citing what were described as anonymous police sources, said that the teenager had driven into officers. But a video of the shooting that emerged shortly afterward appeared to contradict that account, showing that the officer who shot Nahel was not in any immediate danger because the car was driving away.

The diverging accounts contributed to the violent unrest, which has affected more than a dozen cities.

The interior minister said the officer who shot Nahel M. would be suspended from his job. French prosecutors on Thursday urged that the officer, who has not been identified, be placed under investigation for “voluntary homicide” and — in a rare step in such cases — that he be detained.

The officer was expected to appear on Thursday before investigative judges, who could hand down charges.

Pascal Prache, the top prosecutor in Nanterre, said that the officer had not met the “legal conditions for the use of the weapon.”

It was likely that protests would continue on Thursday, but the prime minister rejected calls to declare a state of emergency in some areas. Anticipating further unrest, France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said that 40,000 officers would be deployed across France on Thursday evening, more than four times as many as on Wednesday night.

Large crowds gathered on Thursday afternoon at a vigil march organized by the teenager’s family in Nanterre. Atop the cab of a flatbed truck, his mother, wearing a white T-shirt reading “Justice for Nahel,” led the crowd in chants.

The unrest immediately revived memories of 2005, when the deaths of two teenagers running from the police set off weeks of violent protests, with hundreds of young people from poorer suburbs of Paris setting fire to cars and buildings.

In subsequent years, several beatings by the police and deaths in custody led to protests and fueled widespread accusations of police brutality.

Catherine Porter contributed reporting from Nanterre, France.

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