French far-right figure ends divisive crowdfunding for officer whose shooting of teen set off unrest

French far-right figure ends divisive crowdfunding for officer whose shooting of teen set off unrest

French far-right figure ends divisive crowdfunding for officer whose shooting of teen set off unrest

A French far-right figure behind a divisive, and hugely successful, crowdfunding campaign for the family of a police officer jailed in the killing of a 17-year-old that triggered riots around France announced on Tuesday that he’s closing the account which topped more than 1.5 million euros ($1.63 million).

Criticism, and plans for lawsuits, have mounted around Jean Messiha’s Gofundme effort with claims that his real motive was to spread a message of hate and pit the far-right against residents of poor suburbs with a high rate of people of immigrant origin.

Even Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has said the collection for the jailed officer’s family did not contribute to calming the situation, just like Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti who warned on France-Inter radio against a possible “instrumentalization.”

The unrest was touched off by the shooting last Tuesday of the young man identified as Nahel, who was stopped while driving a Mercedes in suburban Paris. Violence was driven by a mainly teenage backlash in the suburbs and urban housing projects against a French state that many young people with immigrant roots say routinely discriminates against them. Violence appeared to continue to ebb for a third night Tuesday.

However, reports emerged of the death early Sunday of a 27-year-old man in Marseille. The local prosecutor’s office opened an investigation Tuesday for "mortal blows with use or threat of a weapon,” the newspaper La Marseillaise reported.

The probable cause of death was a “violent shock to the thorax caused by a projectile of the ‘flashball’ type,” commonly used by French police for riot control.

It was not immediately clear whether the victim, who was not identified, was in the area of riots and pillaging the night of his death, the paper quoted the prosecutor’s office as saying.

Messiha, meanwhile, hailed in a tweet what he called an “historic symbol of national generosity” while announcing the closing of the crowdfunding campaign at midnight Tuesday for the family of the jailed officer, identified only as Florian M.

He said that more than 100,000 donors contributed to the effort he initiated on Friday that reached more than 1.5 million euros. He equated the response to a “tsunami” in support of law enforcement officers “who in a certain way fight daily so that France remains France.”

The crowdfunding had an ugly edge with Messiha bragging at one point that his effort was bringing in more funds than a crowdfunding account set up for the family of Nahel. The family filed a complaint, alleging the crowdfunding was based on deception to “criminalize” the victim and win support for the police officer who fired at him, according to France-Info, which saw the complaint. It wasn’t immediately clear whether an investigation would be opened.

Socialist lawmaker Arthur Delaporte from Calvados had filed a complaint earlier Tuesday against the crowdfunding contesting its legal grounds - shortly before Messiha closed it.

Egyptian-born Messiha is a former official of the National Rally party of far-right leader Marine Le Pen which he left for a fledgling far-right party then dropped out of that to return to his think tank. He remains a virulent critic of migration from Africa.