July 6, 2023

Riots in France

“French police arrested 16 people overnight in connection with urban violence, the interior ministry said on Wednesday… The death on June 27 of Nahel M., a teenager of North African descent, after he was shot by a police officer in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, caused an outpouring of rage that led to nights of nationwide rioting and a muscular police crackdown

“At the peak of the unrest, in the night of Friday to Saturday, police arrested more than 1,300 people. The situation began to quieten on Sunday, and on the night of Monday to Tuesday police arrested 81 people… The police officer who shot Nahel is in custody facing a charge of voluntary homicide.” Reuters

Both sides agree that the riots were exacerbated by the alienation of many French minorities:

“The aggressive, sometimes brutal methods employed by heavily armed, ill-disciplined French police are a longstanding problem. The issue was highlighted during the ‘yellow vest’ street protests in 2018-19, when thousands of demonstrators (and many officers) were injured. Similar trouble arose during pension reform protests this year. Civil liberties organisations have been highly critical…

“That police leaders feel justified in describing teenaged rioters as ‘vermin’ and ‘savage hordes’ is indicative of the dangerous, ever-widening gulf dividing France’s ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Poverty, ghetto-like suburban estates, joblessness, limited life chances and social alienation are problems facing younger people in many developed countries… When chronic, unaddressed institutional racism in the justice system, in other state structures and society at large is added to this volatile mix, it’s little wonder uncontained explosions occur. What’s happening in France is a warning to all.”
Observer Editorial, The Guardian

“While the rioting is utterly unacceptable, it underlines the enduring sense of disenfranchisement by young French Arabs and other minorities. These citizens embrace the psychological scars of France's colonial past, most notably the Algerian civil war, and find associated anger toward the state. They feel successive French governments and other French citizens have treated them as second-class citizens. Saturated in improving but still rundown city suburbs, or banlieues, these citizens suffer youth unemployment rates more than double that in the United States…

“They also lament what they regard as frequent, racially motivated identity and traffic checks by police officers… The reality is that much of Western Europe grapples with a far deeper and more insidious racism than that which exists in the U.S… Black soccer players in Spain are still regularly subjected to racist chanting (and sometimes even have bananas thrown at them). Similarly, immigrants are openly and publicly detested in much of Italy. There is a far greater representation of minorities in high levels of business, government, and the military in the U.S. than in Europe.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

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