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28 March 2007 Blog Home : March 2007 : Permalink

Paris Riots And Elections (episode 94)

Roger L Simon links to an AP story (which I have found in the Grauniad) about recent unrest at Paris' Gare du Nord. Trouble seems to have erupted when a fare-dodger was apprehended. According to the officials:

Officials from Paris' RATP public transport authority said the violence started after a man without a Metro ticket punched two inspectors during a routine ticket check. Youths also attacked the inspectors and later turned on police patrolling the station, officials said.

``The inspectors were hit with projectiles, as were the officers who came to assist them,'' said Luc Poignant, an official for the Force Ouvriere police union.

Needless to say the "youths" disagreed somewhat:

But youths at the station said Tuesday's clashes started when police manhandled a young person of North African origin. Some claimed that the youth's arm was broken in the confrontation.

In other words the "youths" felt that their fare dodging mate should not have been arrested. This is not noticeably different from the spark for the previous riots when the two kids got electrocuted under disputed circumstances. However that is not what I found most interesting. What is interesting is the identity of the various witnesses quoted by AP.

Firstly there is "Commuter Cyril Zidou, a 24-year-old electrician", then there is "Another commuter, Guy Elkoun" and thirdly there is "Shopkeeper Mohamed Mamouni". All three of these names are distinctly non-French, i.e. it seems highly likely that all three are of immigrant background. At least two, and probably all three, of them are apparently gainfully employed and therefore not the stereotypical unemployed immigrant that some sections of the media and the blogosphere would have you believe is the entire population of the Parisian suburbs. These people are in fact the ones most affected by the lawless "youths" and they are the ones that the rest of France needs to ensure stays loyal to France for the state to continue to rule the entire nation.

As Roger says, the article makes it clear that the "youths" have never really stopped rioting, the news media stopped covering it when the worst rioting stopped but nothing much else has changed. This means that the divide between the unemployed (and frequently unemployable) youths and the rest remains. And this in turn means that even though the riot isn't directly related to the elections if unrest continues it is likely to have an effect on the polls. What effect is unclear.

Sarko can probably do a slopey shoulders trich to weasel his way out of responsibility for the continuing problems but he may be better advised to not do so. Part of his appeal is that he is willing to act and take responsibility for his acts so in this case he may want to take responsibility for failure to act completely as interior minister and then promsie to do better as president. While he has not yet done that, so far he seems to be the only candidate willing to stand up and say something (google translation on right):
PARIS (AP) - "Si la police n'est pas là pour faire régner un minimum d'ordre, quel est le rôle de la police?", s'est interrogé Nicolas Sarkozy mercredi matin au lendemain des violences à la gare du Nord, à Paris.

"Nous sommes le seul pays où on considère qu'arrêter quelqu'un parce qu'il ne paie pas son billet, ce n'est pas normal", a estimé sur France Info le candidat UMP à la présidentielle et ancien ministre de l'Intérieur. "Ce sont les contribuables qui paient quand il y a de la fraude. Il y a des millions de braves gens qui achètent leur ticket chaque matin, qui doivent être respectés".

"La démocratie c'est un minimum d'ordre, de respect, d'autorité, de tranquillité", a encore affirmé Nicolas Sarkozy. "On ne peut simplement pas être tout le temps du côté de ceux qui se moquent de la loi et qui se moquent des règlements. Le principe, c'est quand même qu'on ne doit pas donner raison à celui qui veut passer sans billet, et qui frappe un policier". AP
PARIS (AP) - “If the police force isn't there to make reign a minimum of order, which is the role of the police force? ”, questioned Nicolas Sarkozy Wednesday morning the shortly after violences at the station of North, in Paris.

“We are the only country where it is considered that to stop somebody because it does not pay its ticket, it is not normal”, estimated on France Information the UMP candidate with presidential and former Minister of Interior Department. “They are the taxpayers who pay when there is fraud. There is million good people who buys their ticket each morning, which must be respected”.

“The democracy it is a minimum of order, respect, authority, peace”, still affirmed Nicolas Sarkozy. “One cannot simply be all the time side of those which make fun of the law and which makes fun of the payments. The principle, it is nevertheless that one should not give reason to that which wants to pass without ticket, and which strikes a police officer”. AP

Sego and Bayrou will undoubtedly want to find a way to blame Sarko and the UMP for the mess but still come up with a solution that appeals. This is going to be tricky and that probably explains why, so far today, they have remained quiet. Of course the real fix would be to cut state benefits, taxes, social security charges and emplyoment regulations so that companies have an incentive to hire the "youths" for real money. Unfortunately, as I noted yesterday, this is unlikely to be stated publically even by Sarko because the majority of the French are simply not ready for such plain speaking and will not vote for someone who wants to do that. Sarko is by no means the ideal candidate but he is quite simply the best of the ones we've got. Unless you subscribe to the Cthulu for President principle, it makes sense to support Sarko because while he may or may not reform France the other candidates are sure not to do so.

Update: Good comemntary over at Eursoc too

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