...Continued from page 1

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.

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