November 26, 2007
France's race problems not magically resolved yet +
Over the weekend in the suburbs of Paris, two Arab boys riding a motorbike were hit and killed by a cop car. Less than an hour later, crowds of people had set fire to four buildings, torched 28 cars, and started throwing rocks at riot police. Today, they were still going, setting gas tanks on fire while cops fired rubber bullets and threw tear gas.
This is pretty much exactly what happened two years ago. Those clashes lasted for three weeks and resulted in thousands of cars and buildings getting destroyed [details on Wikipedia]. Not may people got hurt, though. This time, 25 cops have already been injured, one with a punctured lung.
Here's another difference: the interior minister who in 2005 referred to the rioters, mostly the children of Arab or African immigrants, as "scum" is now the President. The unemployment rate for young black men is still about 40%.
It's looking like the boys that were killed this weekend were mostly at fault for the accident: they weren't wearing helmets, the bike was stolen, and they cut off the car while traveling at full speed. So the violence of the last two days seems to be more in response to ongoing discrimination against immigrants and pretty much anyone who isn't white in France, not so much this particular incident. The chief of the Paris police union says, "We’ve been saying for eons that we’re sitting on a powder keg."
UPDATE: Sounds like the violence got worse last night: 82 cops injured, some with buckshot fired from hunting shotguns (kids in the French ghetto have hunting shotguns?!), more buildings set on fire, and over 60 cars torched. This is looking bad. I think the people in charge over there need to realize that they have major problems on their hands: several generations of pissed off poor young people who are technically citizens, but are systematically treated like they have no right to live there.
Here's a quote from a local resident, Boniface Gabo, talking about the housing project he lives in: "This is no place for human beings to live. Make no mistake, every hundred kids who grow up here are a hundred lost kids."
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