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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Riots Spread From Paris to Other French Cities - New York Times

Riots Spread From Paris to Other French Cities - New York TimesNovember 6, 2005
Riots Spread From Paris to Other French Cities
By CRAIG S. SMITH

PARIS, Sunday, Nov. 6 -Scattered nighttime rioting around French public housing developments continued early Sunday, spreading to the outskirts of more cities and leaving the authorities frustrated by their inability to stop what many are calling France's worst civil unrest since the 1968 student revolts.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met with eight of his ministers and a top Muslim official on Saturday, trying to find a way to break the chain of violent events.

But the violence continued, with two schools destroyed in the Essonne region south of Paris and more cars going up in flames. More than 1,000 vehicles and many buildings have been destroyed in the disorder that began Oct. 27, with nearly 900 vehicles reported burned Friday night alone, although the violence seemed to be lessening by Sunday morning.

Most of the unrest remained confined to immigrant neighborhoods surrounding Paris, where about 100 people were evacuated Friday night from two apartment blocks after an arson attack set dozens of cars alight in an underground garage. Rampaging youths have also attacked property in the southern cities of Toulouse and Nice, and in Lille and Rennes to the north.

Hundreds of young people, including teenagers as young as 13, have been detained in the past 24 hours. Although the police have been unable to stop the violence because of its apparent spontaneity and lack of clear leaders, officials say they have also begun to detect efforts to coordinate action and spread it nationally. In remarks on Europe 1 Radio, the prosecutor general in Paris, Yves Bot, said Web sites were urging youths in other cities to join the rioting.

The police said that for the first time they had deployed a helicopter to videotape incidents and coordinate with officers on the ground. Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders led a march of about 2,000 people on Saturday morning in Aulnay-sous-Bois, one of the affected suburbs. The parents of two teenagers, whose accidental deaths while hiding from the police touched off the rioting, also issued a statement appealing for calm.

Many see the violence as a test of wills between Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and the young, mostly French Arab rioters. Many immigrants and their children blame Mr. Sarkozy for alienating young people with the way he has pressed a zero-tolerance anticrime campaign, which features frequent police checks of French Arabs in poor neighborhoods. But he has ignored calls from many French Arabs to resign, and is keeping up the pressure. During a visit to a police command center west of Paris on Saturday, according to local news reports, he told officers, "Arrests - that's the key."

Ironically, Mr. Sarkozy, himself a second-generation immigrant, has been one of the loudest champions of affirmative action and of relaxing rules that restrict government support for building mosques.

The government has been embarrassed by its inability to quell the disturbances, which have called into question its unique integration model, which discourages recognizing ethnic, religious or cultural differences in favor of French unity. There is no affirmative action, for example, and religious symbols, like the Muslim veil, are banned in schools.

"The republican integration model, on which France has for decades based its self-perception, is in flames," the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung declared. An editorial in Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung called the violence around Paris an "intifada at the city gates," a reference to the anti-Israeli uprising by Palestinians.

The French approach to integration is one of three basic models in Europe, which has faced large-scale non-European immigration only in the postwar era.

Germany and Austria pursued a now largely discredited "guest worker" policy that was based on the notion that immigrants were temporary laborers who would eventually go home. But the guest workers did not go home, and their European-born children have begun demanding citizenship and equal rights.

While it is still difficult to become a citizen in Germany, there has been a strong wave of naturalizations in recent years and children born there to foreign parents now receive citizenship at birth.

Britain has followed a policy closer to that of the United States, extending citizenship to newcomers and encouraging strong ethnic communities. Immigrants arriving from Commonwealth countries in the 1950's and 1960's enjoyed immediate voting rights until Margaret Thatcher put an end to the practice in 1981. But the law created politically powerful immigrant communities.

France, too, has offered citizenship to its immigrants, but the process was slower, and many of the Algerians who arrived to work in the wake of their country's bitter war of independence against France were reluctant to take up French citizenship. Not until naturalizations became more common in the 1980's did immigrants and their adult children begin to develop political power.

The country has tried to discourage "ghettoization" by ignoring ethnic or religious differences and emphasizing French identity above all. Until the early 1980's, foreigners needed government approval to form associations.

But discrimination has flourished behind the oft-stated ideals, leaving immigrants and their French-born offspring increasingly isolated in government-subsidized apartment blocks to face high unemployment and dwindling hope for the future.

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