Politicians on the left have criticised the collection, set up by a far-right activist, but GoFundMe has refused to take it down
A row has broken out over a collection for the family of the French police officer under investigation for shooting dead a 17-year-old that has topped more than €1m (£860,000) in donations.
A similar collection to help the family of the victim, Nahel M, killed a week ago in Nanterre outside Paris after being stopped by two motorcycle patrol officers, has collected less than €200,000.
The shooting last Tuesday led to a wave of rioting and violence across France and worsened deep political divisions.
The collection for the 38-year-old officer named as Florian M was organised by Jean Messiha, a former spokesperson for the far-right presidential candidate Éric Zemmour, with an initial target of €50,000.
“Support for the family of the Nanterre police officer, Florian M, who did his job and is today paying a heavy price. Support him massively and support our police,” it reads.
By Monday afternoon, more than 58,000 people had made donations, the largest of which was €3,000 from an anonymous benefactor. There were several donations of €1,000.
Nahel’s grandmother Nadia said she was “heartbroken” by the support shown for the officer. “He took the life of my grandson. This man must pay, the same as everyone,” she told the BFM television channel on Sunday. “I have confidence in the justice system. I believe in justice.”
Leftwing politicians have described the fund as “indecent”.
Clémence Guetté of the radical-left France Unbowedparty said the fund was “indecent and an absolute horror”.
Manon Aubry, a France Unbowed MEP, demanded the fund be cancelled.
“More than a million euros collected on the initiative of a far-right polemicist [Messiha] in support of a police officer who kills a teenager. The message? It pays to kill a young Arab,” Aubry tweeted.
Éric Bothorel of the ruling Renaissance party accused Messiha of “playing with fire” and said the fund was “indecent and scandalous”.
French law prohibits the “opening of or public announcement of subscriptions whose purpose is to compensate for fines, costs and damages awarded by judicial sentences in criminal and correctional matters”. The law allows for a six-month prison sentence or a €45,000 fine if broken.
This law was used in 2019 to close a fund in support of gilets jaunes protester Christophe Dettinger, a former boxer who was convicted of punching two police officers. The platform, Leetchi, deemed the fund contrary to public order after an internal investigation and the €146,000 donations were returned to senders.
A spokesperson for GoFundMe told the French magazine Capital that the fund did not break any rules as the money would not go to fund the police officer’s legal fees or defence.
“The money will be directly given to the family, which has been added as a beneficiary,” they said.
Messiha was defiant on Monday, accusing “lefty progressives” of trying to block the fund.
“Our mobilisation for the family of Florian M and our respect for the rules have paid off,” he tweeted.
Sleeping Giants France, a citizens’ group set up to challenge the financing and spreading of hate, said the fund’s “sheer existence inflames the sentiment of injustice and furthers tensions”.
Olivier Faure, head of the Socialist party, also called for the collection to be stopped. “You are perpetuating a rift that’s already wide open, by taking part in the support of a police officer under investigation for culpable homicide. Close it!” he wrote.
Éric Ciotti of the centre-right Républicains said he understood the initiative: “I don’t find it shocking that we should support the family of a police officer who is going through a difficult time today.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, met the leaders of both houses of parliament on Monday as violent protests in France over the police shooting of Nahel appeared to ease after five nights of unrest, during which thousands of people have been arrested amid widespread destruction.
Source: The Guardian