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Wednesday 2 November 2005

Rioting in the Paris Suburbs

Yeah, there's been rioting here for about week. This is what the San Francisco (California, USA) Chronicle has to say about it:

The violence, sparked initially by the deaths of two teenagers, has exposed the despair, anger and deep-rooted criminality in the poor suburbs, where police hesitate to venture and which have proved fertile terrain for Islamic extremists.

What? Deep-rooted criminality? Police scared to venture? Terrorists? Huh?

Things have been reported somewhat differently locally. I'm sorry, I don't have links handy, but the story as I heard it is that three teenage boys, believing themselves to be chased by the police, jumped a fence into a power substation where two of them died and one of them suffered extremely severe burns from electrocution. The police, who have changed their story several times, initially denied that they were chasing the boys. One version has it that they were coming home from a soccer match and were hungry after fasting all day and then playing sports. They saw a police checkpoint ahead where cops were checking papers and decided to go via an alternate route because one of the kids had left his papers at home and didn't want to be held in jail without food. And the cops gave chase.

In the end, it doesn't really matter if the cops were chasing them or not in this instance. What matters is the idea that they were being chased was credible to the boys and to the rioters. So even if the cops weren't chasing them this time, they clearly had a habit of chasing people and getting caught is scary enough to risk death. Which means there was also a credible threat of some sort of harm. Which clearly means that police must be abusing suspects in some way.

It doesn't really sound like the "police hesitate to venture" if they setup random checks of people's papers.

A bunch of youths were upset about this and gathered to protest against being victimized by the police and the police responded by sending out riot police to bust heads. Yeah, that'll calm them down. Hence, the riot. One of the public officials in charge of some sort of law and order position here did his part to calm the situation by calling the protesters scum and threatening to crack down on the suburbs and clean out all the undesirable elements. Ah, yet another thing to make protesters feel better.

A "crackdown" is what started this mess. The way to deal with people upset at being constantly hounded and abused by police is . . . more police.

Frankly, I'm shocked the Chronicle chose to run this. I used to think they were an ok newspaper.

(Yes, this is happening outside of where I venture.) More than 250 cars have been burned. I hope this calms down soon, but with the statements being made by public figures, I'm not hopeful. There are posters up in my neighborhood warning of frequent deportations and advising undocumented immigrants to get in contact with a help group. There's also other human rights orgs around like SOS Racism. I'm more inclined to believe their versions of things. I mean, would anyone rationally really believe that Paris is ringed by terrorists that the police fear? (Of, course, this economic devastation was brought about by Bill O'Reilly's crushing boycott of France.)

Really, I can't believe the Chronicle.

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