Despite the implementation of a nationwide state-of-emergency curfew, riots continued to break out in France. Following what has been described as the worst civil unrest in decades, French officials have called police reserves in to help put a stop to the riots that have spread from the suburbs throughout the countryside. Though the curfew slightly stunted rioting, hundreds of incidents still occurred.
Violence and destruction in France began October 27 in response to the deaths of two teenagers of African descent. The teens were electrocuted as they hid from police pursuit in a power subway station. Their deaths caused the anger that had been building up among young French-born Africans and Arabs living in the neglected suburbs of France to boil over. Burnings, minor bombings, violent attacks, and confrontations with police have ensued each night since the incident.
When asked if the army should be mobilized into the area, Dominique de Vellepin, prime minister of France responded, “we are not at that point.” He stressed, however, that “ensuring everyone’s protection” is the prime concern, according to the Associated Press.
President Jaques Chirac recognized that the disruption is a result of years of “ghettoization of youths of African and North African origin,” and “the incapacity of French society to fully accept them.” Racism and class discrimination against the colored people of French suburbs has long been an issue among the French.
Africans and Arabs, mainly from former French colonies, have been housed in developments in the suburbs of major French cities since the 1960’s. BBC.com reports that the developments have deteriorated from their original state, now surrounded with inferior schools and plagued by unemployment. These “suburbs” have become hopeless traps for the children and grandchildren of African immigrants. Youths have grown weary of their conditions and social status.
Over 1400 cars, buses, schools, churches, and businesses have been burned and bombed over the last 14 days, and over 36 police officers injured in confrontations. There is one documented death as a result of the violence. Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, a 61-year-old retired mechanic, was trying to put out a trash-can fire in his suburban development when he was caught by surprise and beaten into a coma. He succumbed to injuries sustained in the attack.
French officials hope to quiet unrest as soon as possible. In addition to the new curfew, prime minister Vellepin plans to speed up the plans to pour $35.5 billion into a plan for redevelopment of the suburban communities, offer scholarships to talented students, and provide jobs and training to underprivileged youth.
“We must offer them hope and a future,” he said. The curfew is still in place at this time.