horz line

Wheels On Fire

photo, printemps, haussmann

Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann, on Saturday.

Curfew Ordered

Paris:– Monday, 7. November 2005:– Speaking on TF1 TV–news tonight, prime minister Dominique de Villepin said that préfets will be able to impose curfews anywhere in France on Wednesday, after the existing law of 1955 concerning a 'state of emergency' is published in the Journal Officiel.

This move is based on a decision by Jacques Chirac to call a meeting of the Council of Ministers tomorrow morning, to put the law into effect. Acting under the authority of the minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, the préfets can apply the law.

The prime minister also said that it is too soon to call on the army for help and added that an additional 1500 police officers would join the 8000 already on duty in the 'sensitive' suburbs. He welcomed the efforts of parents and residents of the affected suburbs to calm down the situation, especially concerning the younger kids.

Sunday–Monday, More Blues

Hopes were dashed for a quiet Sunday night after Saturday night's 'fever' swept disturbances into a widerphoto, public housing circle of mayhem around France. While Paris' troubled suburbs were somewhat calmer last night, youthful rage gained ground in other cities and towns everywhere – adding to the numbers of burned out cars and buses, schools, churches and some government buildings.

Example of public housing, here in Paris.

Arrests numbered close to 400, bringing the total to near 1200. In Grigny, just south of Orly, shots were fired and 10 police were hit with bird pellets, with two being hospitalized but out of danger. National police announced that 36 officers were hurt in Sunday's actions.

Meanwhile, the leaders of France's largest Muslim organization issued a 'fatwa,' or religious decree. This withholds grace from all who commit blind violence against property or persons.

Nicolas Sarkozy remains the object of criticism, with Socialist Dominique Strauss–Kahn acidly commenting, 'one cannot be a full–time minister of the interior at the same time as being a full–time president of the UMP, a full–time president of the Hauts–de–Seine department and sort of full–time against the president of the République. His job is to restore order, nothing else."

Elsewhere, deputy mayor Eric Raoult of Raincy in Seine–Saint–Denis, beat the national curfew by having one voted for at a council meeting today. This establishes a curfew for minors from 01:00 to dawn, and its object is to restore calm for residents, the 'silent majority.'

The following reports were written late last week, as the events were followed day–by–day. During the day on Sunday, after French president Jacques Chirac appealed for calm, government observers were hoping that there would be a decline after a night of extraordinary 'Saturday night fever.' If anything, the riots of Sunday evening were the most violent of all.

Riots Continue – Politicians Wrangle While Suburbs Burn

Friday, 4. November:– The illusion that France is in control of itself dissolved during the week as suburban youths took to the streets night after night to conduct running cat-and-mouse battles with armed riot police, to trash and burn, in a 11?–night orgy of mayhem.

The government, meeting in crises daily, seemed incapable of mastering the situation, perhapsphoto, chistmas tree, galeries lafayette because it cannot – or refuses to – comprehend how it has gone wrong. In France the government is supposed to manage the country, but it seems that the best it can do is react.

This year's tree in Galeries Lafayette.

It all started when interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy paid a public relations visit to Argenteuil on Tuesday, 25. October. In a regular show–the–force junket he was greeted by boos and catcalls, and when he called the reception committee 'rabble' and said he was going to 'cut out the gangrene,' he had to start dodging thrown rocks and beer cans.

Two nights later three teenagers returning home in Clichy–sous–Bois thought they were fleeing from a police identity check. To escape they climbed a barrier topped with barbed wire to seek refuge in an electro–transformer station and two were electrocuted.

News of the deaths set off the anger of local youths. They torched cars and garbage containers and assaulted riot police with rocks and other missiles.

Some observers think events were launched by the offensive action and aggressive words of the combative interior minister. Other observers, with over–heated nightmare visions of common delinquency run amok coupled with international terrorism, placed all blame on the teenagers.

In the following days, ones that followed consecutive nights of blazing riots and battles with riot police, the interior minister 'persisted,' announcing on the TFI Sunday evening news that the government would exercise 'zero tolerance.' As cooler heads began to prevail in Clichy–sous–Bois, the nightly battles shifted to many other suburbs outside Paris.

Last Wednesday, some members of his own party had enough of Sarkozy. In a heated session with the prime minister present, one UMP deputy was reported as saying, 'he gives an impression of being what his detractors say he is.' Another said, 'he's happy to throw oil on the fire - a minister who acts but achieves no results.'

If anything, with its constitutional guarantees of equality and respect for human rights, France has the best intentions. The ruptures come from the discrepancy between the promise and the reality.

It is no secret to the government that 'sensitive' housing areas throughout France have a population of five million, located in 750 'sensitive zones,' where the unemployment ratephoto, lafayette, haussmann is 20 percent, fully double the national average. Average individual income in these areas is 10,500 euros annually – less than the minimum wage – and more than a third less than the national average of 17,100 euros.

More lights on Haussmann.

What is a secret is the reason the government believes that problems with youth and unemployment will go away if they are ignored. Not so ancient history has shown that everybody gets tired of riots and they tend to stop without being squashed by repression. Now we see, yet again, how they flare up because the fuse is never extinguished.

The leaders of other countries with similar problems do not envy the French. If anything they hope the French can invent a doable idea that they can borrow and successfully apply.

Meanwhile opinion makers who live in countries where there is a potential for unrest, but with less than no tolerance for material destruction, with plentiful and willing courts and endless jail capacity, feel free to tell the French what they are doing wrong.

It is not aloofness that prevents the French from listening. On Friday evening the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who canceled a planned trip to Canada on Wednesday, met for two and a half hours with 15 teenagers from the 'sensitive' suburbs to learn what they have to say. For one thing, they do not like the incessant identity checks.

According to Friday's TV–news some voices were characterizing Nicolas Sarkozy as a pyromaniac, and others were calling for his resignation. On the other side within UMP ranks, some were urging the government to get tough.

The communist mayor of Stains, Michel Beaumale, was touring his town on Thursday night when he happened on some teenagers hanging out in the Rue Mandela. While discussing the situation with them, somebody else broke a window on the mayor's car and popped in a Molotov Cocktail. The mayor put it out before much damage was caused.

All Quiet in Paris?

Friday–Saturday:– I'm tired of 'fair and balanced.' It's 12:30 at night and I've just been out for a little tour, to the tabac on the avenue and back. Now the roller rando is passing beneath my window.

It's gotten cooler but it's Friday night and there were four high–heeled honeys in jeans looking for a taxi to take them to the club, and groups of other couples after dinner looking for a café, plus the usual folks sleeping rough on the avenue under the brown lights. Three blocks from the big police station, I passed a big crowd outside the Zango, wreathed in clouds of pot fumes. If you stay in, you can forget that all sorts of people are out at night, all the time. In half a hour I saw no patrolling police, heard no sirens, saw no law at all, and no fires.

The loudest noise came from a party with all the windows open, above the horse butcher on Daguerre. The people out in the suburbs, the other thing they're complaining about, is all the police, fire and ambulance sirens, all night and every night. They think they are being blitzed.

I am not the only one who attributes the riots to Sarkozy's provocation. It was this that led to the kids getting electrocuted. They didn't want the hassle of showing their IDs to the police, knowing they'd probably get bounced around a bit. The police are unpredictable. They must have been scared though, to go over that wall with the barbed–wire on top. If they didn't see the danger signs they knew they were there.

What there was, after the first night of battles with the police in Clichy–sous–Bois, was nothing. The president was mum. The prime minister said nothing. Sarkozy was still muttering threats, but he's always got something to say – he's running for president.

Then the following night there was more riot. The Imams were trying to cool tempers, the 'big brothers' were out trying to channel the kids away from the cops, but they cops were there, dressed and equipped for street battles. With their shields, helmets, batons, tear–gas and flash–balls.

Meanwhile some politicians, mainly members of Sarkozy's own UMP, are wondering if he's flipped out. They should because on Sunday night he's on TV–news saying his 'zero tolerance' mantra–cum–slogan. The riots raged anew, beginning ever earlier.

Basically, here in Paris, it seemed like the government was somewhere else. Nobody said anything of any consequence. On Tuesday the prime minister's planned visit to Canada was still on.

Then he canceled it, and on Thursday Le Parisien's headline said, '10 Reasons for Hope.' There was a 'hip–hoptimiste,' the big brothers, the ghetto guys who've done good, plans for houses instead of the towers, return of businesses, and other dreams. The following page had the previous night's score including buses added to the 40 cars cooked up, and attacks on firemen.

From Friday night it's total situation of 'fed–up.' From Wednesday to Thursday 315 cars are fried, the RER is attacked, schools are burnt, despite a thousand police on the spot. The prime minister begins saying that the République isn't going to give in.

The prosecutor in Bobigny closed the investigation into the deaths of the two electrocuted kids, but a criminal proceeding by an investigating judge is launched against 'X' for manslaughter. The kids' parents reportedly refused to meet Sarkozy.

The right–wing began its theories of 'civil wars' and continued its arguments against voting forphoto, pont neuf, november foreigners – which, curiously, has only been recently proposed by... Sarkozy. 'The only solution to avoid ethnic war is stop immigration,' they said, hardly different from the Front National.

Autumn shines on Pont Neuf.

When the riots spread to suburbs controlled by the Communists they spoke out, but usually to blame the government for years of inaction. The Socialists were silent, supposedly solely concerned with their coming congress at Le Mans.

I made a mistake on Friday night, saying that radio FIP had zero news. Actually, there is no news on FIP at night, but it doesn't mean any other station is out there covering the latest actions in the battle, which is not quite a civil war.

horz line
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini