Rioting Across France Hits a New Peak
More Than 1,400 Vehicles Are Burned In 11th Night of Violence, Police Chief Says
PARIS – Rioting across France hit a new peak with 1,408 vehicles burned in an 11th night of rioting, France’s national police chief said Monday.
The figure was a sharp increase from the night before, when 1,295 vehicles were burned, Michel Gaudin told a news conference. He said police made 395 arrests overnight Sunday to Monday, up from 345 the night before.
Later Monday, French police said a man beaten during riots has died, becoming the first fatality since the unrest started.
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In Strasbourg, youths stole a car and rammed it into a housing project, setting the vehicle and the building on fire.
“We’ll stop when Sarkozy steps down,” said the defiant 17-year-old driver, who gave his name only as Murat.
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The unchecked violence is a blunt reminder that reaching an accommodation with its Muslim minorities is one of Europe’s most pressing long-term problems, along with reviving a long-sluggish economy and dealing with an aging populace. Muslims account for an estimated 5% or more of the populations of France, the Netherlands, Germany and Britain and are heavily concentrated in big cities. In France, home to an estimated five million Muslims, the largest community in Western Europe, the rioters have been young men of Arab and African origin.
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Despite the harsh words he aimed at rioters, Mr. Sarkozy is one of France’s few mainstream politicians who champion greater rights for immigrants. He recently stirred controversy in his own center-right ruling party by proposing to let immigrants vote in local elections. He also was one of the first French politicians to call for affirmative action to help immigrants gain a role alongside France’s all-white elite.
In Paris, while ”youths” fired on the gendarmerie, burned down a gym and disrupted commuter trains, the French Cabinet split in two, as the ”minister for social cohesion” (a Cabinet position I hope America never requires) and other colleagues distance themselves from the interior minister, the tough-talking Nicolas Sarkozy who dismissed the rioters as ”scum.” President Chirac seems to have come down on the side of those who feel the scum’s grievances need to be addressed. He called for ”a spirit of dialogue and respect.” As is the way with the political class, they seem to see the riots as an excellent opportunity to scuttle Sarkozy’s presidential ambitions rather than as a call to save the Republic.
¡No Pasarán! points out how Sarkozy’s been made to look like the bad guy.
Meanwhile, there’s been no talk of even a curfew until today.
French government officials said they would announce a plan Monday for combating the violence and its root causes of high unemployment, poverty and discrimination in the poor communities where the violence is concentrated.
As I said before, in my view the situation has combined bad economics, and bad social policy, and religious unrest. The rioting has all the signs of a territorial gang war: the banlieus gangs vs. the police.
This is just the beginning,” said Moussa Diallo, 22, an unemployed French-African in Clichy-sous-Bois, the Parisian suburb where the violence began on October 27. “It’s not going to end until there are two policemen dead.” He was referring to the two teenage boys, one of Mauritanian origin, the other Tunisian, whose accidental deaths while fleeing a police identity check touched off the violence.
Theodore Dalrymple, who now lives in France, writes,
Unfortunately, to economic division is added ethnic and cultural division: For the fact is that most of Mr. Sarkozy’s racaille are of North African or African descent, predominantly Muslim. And the French state has adopted, whether by policy or inadvertence, the South African solution to the problem of social disaffection (in the days of Apartheid): It has concentrated the great majority of the disaffected paupers geographically in townships whose architecture would have pleased that great Francophone (actually Swiss) modernist architect, Le Corbusier, who — be it remembered — wanted to raze the whole of Paris and rebuild it along the lines of Clichy-sous-Bois (known now as Clichy-sur-Jungle).
Dalrymple talks about what a state of emergency would look like:
If push were ever to come to shove, the trains to the townships could be turned off, assuming they were not wrecked first by the inhabitants themselves, and the roads to the center of Paris (and other towns and cities) could be blocked with a few armored cars or a couple of tanks. A state of emergency could be declared, after which the CRS could go about its business in all calmness and serenity. The left would squeal and protest a bit, but secretly be relieved that, thanks to the CRS, the labor laws protecting their voters did not have to be changed after all, with the consequent introduction of “savage liberalism” into France.
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Of course, apocalypses have a habit of not happening. The present riots are only a temporary exacerbation of “normal” life in French lower-class and immigrant suburbs. (In all of Western society, not just France, social housing means antisocial behavior.) Even when there are no riots, such suburbs are strewn with the carcasses of burnt-out cars, like skeletons in a desert, and one can see the blackened remains of shops that have been put to the torch. Drug-trafficking goes on openly, and the hostility to outsiders is palpable.
The current interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, is the first French politician to suggest some approach to the problem other than building more community centers made of concrete and named after great French poets. As a result, he is both hated and feared, and the rioters must hope that if they burn enough cars and kindergartens he will be forced to resign and thus lose his chance of winning the presidency and letting the CRS loose. This will enable “les jeunes” to return to the life they know and understand, that of criminality without interference by the state.
Roger L. Simon has thoughtful commentary and discussion.
Update: Brussels Journal
The French government is failing completely in the basic task of government: maintaining law and order so that each citizen can live and work in safety. What is more, the government has abdicated. The ministers are either pandering to the rioters (Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin — despite the first name, he is a man, though clearly without balls) or bluffing (Interior Minister Sarkozy) rather than using the instruments they have. Perhaps they have a good excuse. Maybe government is aware that in an outright urban war it would be outarmed and outnumbered. Perhaps the rumour that the French authorities cannot rely on the army because fifteen percent of the soldiers are Muslims is true. Perhaps the allegation of Maurice Dantec on Quebec television that large arsenals of sophisticated heavy weaponry are stacked away in the French suburbs is also true.
As a result, however, the insurgents are viewing the politicians and the pundits with contempt and amusement. If there is “œanger” of a kind, it is no more than infuriation at the, from their point of view, arrogant presumption of the French politicians that Muslims would even consider adopting, let alone abiding by rules that the French have set. The Muslims resent the outsiders paternalizing them and interfering with their way of life in the suburbs of all Western Europe’s major cities. Their message is: get out of our way, get out of our territory, and: you act like you think you’re the boss but we’ll show you who really is.