Monday, November 07, 2005

Riots in France

It is very frightening to see the riots spread across France, and to realize that the police aren't being effective in stopping it. This article, As Riots Continue in France, Chirac Vows to Restore Order, points out that the rioting has spread to the center of Paris, including the Marais, the old Jewish quarter.

While the violence remains primarily constrained to uncoordinated attacks on property, Sunday's escalation raised fears that it could evolve into something deadly. It seemed only luck that by Sunday night, no one had been killed.

A gaping hole exposed a charred wooden staircase of a smoke-blackened building in Paris's historic Marais district Sunday, where a car was set on fire the previous night. Florent Besnard, 24, said he and a friend had just turned into quiet Rue Dupuis when they were passed by two running youths. Within seconds, a car further up the street was engulfed in flames, its windows popping and tires exploding as the fire spread to the building and surrounding vehicles.

"I think it's going to continue," said Mr. Besnard, who is unemployed.

The attack angered people in the neighborhood, which includes Paris's old Jewish quarter and is still a center of Jewish life in the city. "We escaped from Romania with nothing and came here and worked our fingers to the bone and never asked for anything, never complained," said Liliane Zump, a woman in her seventies, shaking with fury on the street outside the scarred building.

It's unclear to me from the coverage if the riots are merely caused by pent-up frustration of unemployed young people angry at the police because of unfair treatment, or whether there is more to it - religious or racial antagonism, or Islamist agitation. The riots originated in the suburban slums where Muslim Arab and African immigrants live. The article also says that even before these riots, about 20,000 cars had already been burned up in France. When is this going to end?

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