[URBANTH-L]NEWS: the week Paris burned

Vicki Brennan v-brennan at uchicago.edu
Sun Nov 6 18:51:18 EST 2005

Good information as well as a critique of the media coverage of the 
riots can be found here:

I've pasted in an excerpt below but urge everyone to go read the entire 
entry on this topic.
Vicki Brennan
University of Chicago



Members of Paris’s African community have been rioting in the streets 
of Paris for the past 9 days. The riots were triggered by the death of 
two youths of African decent,  Bouna Traore, aged 15, and Zyed Benna, 
17, were electrocuted at an electricity sub-station in Clichy-sous-Bois 
as they ran from the police.   A third youth who escaped death, said 
they panicked and ran because they found themselves near  the scene of 
a break-in  incident where police began to arrive.  The police of 
course deny any involvement in the boys death.  It should be noted that 
these young people are not immigrants. Their grandparents and possibly 
their parents are but they are born in France and are French citizens.  
Constantly referring to them as "immigrants" is a problem in itself and 
reinforces their exclusion from mainstream French society.

The boys did not have criminal records nor were they known to the 
police so why did they run. The explanation given in Indymedia Paris by 
Laurent Levy is very plausible given the appalling racist record of the 
French police.  They knew what would happen to them if they were 
stopped for an ID check.  They would risk being detained and spending 
several hours being humiliated at the police station - you do not have 
to have much of an imagination to know the kind of taunts the boys 
would be subjected to.  It was late and they wanted to get home where 
they were expected by their families.  Levy also asks why the Minister 
of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy had to say that this drama took place 
after a burglary attempt implying the boys were invovled or boys "like 
them" ie Africans and Arabs.

Following the death of the boys on Thursday there were two days of 
riots.  On the Saturday community members in an attempt to calm the 
situation organised a silent march in memory of the teenagers.    In 
the evening, some 150 young Africans met with the Mayor to discuss the 
events.   The mayor talked about the cost of the damage but did not 
make any reference to the heavy handed policing.  The youths became 
very angry at the police, the repression, the abusive language directed 
at their mothers, calling them sluts.  The police began to arrive with 
flashballs (for shooting rubber bullets) and riot gear provoking the 
crowds.  They then told the brother of one of the dead youths to go 
home. He took three steps towards  the police who then began to fire 
tear gas at the crowd.  The following day, about 8.30pm on Sunday 
evening there was another incident which took place around the local 
Mosque. By this time according to Netlex things had calmed down but it 
seems the police presence was heavy in the area.  It is not clear what 
exactly happened but the police released tear gas grenades one of which 
landed in the local Mosque during prayers which was full of families.  
A panic followed as the building filled with smoke and people were 
crying and coughing and running. It is this incident that triggered the 
riots again and they have continued ever since spreading into a 
worsening situation and spreading to other French cities.   

> On Sun, 6 Nov 2005 12:31:02 -0500
>  "Angela Jancius" <acjancius at ysu.edu> wrote:
>> Violence sweeps France in 10th night of riots
>> Alex Duval Smith in Paris and David Smith
>> Sunday November 6, 2005
>> The Observer
>> France was reeling from a 10th night of violence yesterday as rioting 
>> swept
>> from the suburbs of Paris to become a nationwide crisis.
>> In towns and cities across the country, youths armed with gasoline 
>> bombs
>> torched scores of vehicles, nursery schools and other targets. Police 
>> said
>> that at least 607 vehicles were set alight, with more than half 
>> outside the
>> Paris region.
>> The Foreign Office yesterday warned British tourists to 'exercise 
>> extreme
>> care in the affected areas'.
>> The mayhem came in direct defiance of a warning from Interior Minister
>> Nicolas Sarkozy that rioters faced stiff punishments. He said setting 
>> cars
>> on fire could 'cost dear in terms of sentences' and that the 
>> government was
>> 'unanimous' about standing firm against violence, which many are 
>> describing
>> as France's worst civil unrest since the 1968 student revolts.
>> Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was yesterday forced to call a 
>> crisis
>> meeting of his ministers and a top Muslim official as the rioting 
>> continued
>> to spread.
>> Last night five classrooms at the Sleeping Beauty Nursery School in 
>> Grigny,
>> in the Essonne region south of Paris, went up in flames as well as two
>> classrooms at another school.
>> In a measure of public dissatisfaction with the government, Yvan 
>> Lemaitre,
>> the parent of one of the pupils at the Sleeping Beauty school, told 
>> French
>> radio: 'Burning a school is unacceptable but the man who lit the fire 
>> is
>> Sarkozy.'
>> By 1am this morning, at least 607 vehicles were burned - 13 of them 
>> inside
>> Paris. The overall figures were expected to climb by daybreak.
>> The troubles threatened to spiral out of control as arson attacks were
>> reported in cities to the north, south, east and west, many known for 
>> their
>> calm, like the cultural bastion of Avignon in southern France and the 
>> resort
>> cities of Nice and Cannes, where cars were torched.
>> In the Normandy town of Evreux, arson attacks laid waste to at least 
>> 50
>> vehicles, part of a shopping centre, a post office and two schools, 
>> said
>> Patrick Hamon, spokesman for the national police.
>> He added that five police officers and three firefighters were injured
>> battling the blazes.
>> Arson was also reported in Nantes, in the south west, in Lille and 
>> Rennes in
>> the north and Saint-Dizier, in the Ardennes region east of Paris. In 
>> the
>> eastern city of Strasbourg, 18 cars were set alight in full daylight, 
>> police
>> said. In Toulouse, there were 30 arson attacks.
>> Some 2,300 police were being brought into the Paris region to bolster
>> security. In the Essonne area south of the city, a recycling factory 
>> was set
>> on fire and at least 35 vehicles torched.
>> Twenty-eight cars were torched in the Seine-Saint-Denis region, north 
>> east
>> of Paris, where the riots erupted after two teenage boys were 
>> accidentally
>> electrocuted as they hid from police, apparently thinking they were 
>> being
>> pursued. French authorities have denied that police were to blame.
>> France-Info radio reported residents catching two 14-year-olds trying 
>> to
>> light a fire in Drancy, north-east of Paris, and turning them over to
>> police.
>> Even in the heart of Paris three cars were damaged by fire in the 
>> Republique
>> section, north east of City Hall.
>> Meanwhile, earlier yesterday, hundreds of people joined marches in 
>> Paris
>> suburbs to protest against the violence. In Aulnay-sous-Bois, which 
>> has seen
>> some of the worst of the rioting, residents walked past burnt-out 
>> vehicles
>> and buildings with banners reading 'No to violence' and 'Yes to 
>> dialogue'.
>> De Villepin called the emergency cabinet meeting to attempt to regain 
>> the
>> momentum and show a united front. He called on ministers to speed up 
>> plans
>> for urban renewal and asked the influential imam of the Paris mosque, 
>> Dalil
>> Boubakeur, to appeal for calm.
>> But it was Sarkozy who again came in for attack. After his meeting 
>> with De
>> Villepin, Boubakeur launched a veiled attack on the minister's 
>> outbursts, in
>> which he called the disaffected young men on estates 'louts'.
>> Police trade union official Gilles Petit said the rioters would 'stop 
>> at
>> nothing' in their attacks.
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