Riots claim first victim; French President declares state of emergency
This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from The Associated Press story "France Braces for 13th Night of Violence," The Washington Times story "Paris police fear rioters' heavy arms," the Inter Press Service story "Restive France Declares State of Emergency." Silver Chips Online posts these news summaries to provide readers with a forum for discussion.
Monday marked the twelfth day of street violence in Paris and its suburbs, as the most intense street violence to hit France in four decades spilled into over 200 cities and towns throughout the country.
In response to the riots, French President Jacques Chirac has declared a state of emergency. This action will enable cities and towns affected by the violence to impose curfews aimed at keeping disgruntled youths off the streets. Many towns around Paris have already imposed such curfews, with the city of Amiens being the first to do so.
Despite Islamic officials' urgings to put an end to the unrest, police fear that the rioters, most of whom are Muslims, will take the violence to a new level. "In the past, when we have cracked down on these criminals in their homes, we found drugs, grenades and heavy weapons such as guns. While they haven't started using these arms yet, there's also no reason to think they wouldn't," Jean-Christophe Carne, president of a police trade union, told The Washington Times.
The violence broke out on October 27, after two immigrant teens were accidentally electrocuted while hiding from police in a high-voltage power substation in Clichy-sous-Bois, a poor district 19 miles northeast of Paris. Many French immigrants feel that the deaths of the two youths reflect the ongoing struggle of France's large immigrant population. Hugues Lagrange, social researcher at the independent Paris Observatory of Social Change, told the International Press Service that "conditions of extreme poverty, high unemployment and the racial segregation that hinders immigrant access to jobs lay at the heart of the rebellion."
Some activists are concerned about the "fast-track" trials given to arrested rioters. The Associated Press (AP) reports that well over 100 adults and 30 minors have already been convicted and sentenced. Many are also outraged over the police's stern way of dealing with the unrest. As reported by the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPSNA), "the police reacted with force, in one instance hurling tear-gas grenades into a mosque." French Interior minister Nicholas Sarkozy has also raised questions by making racial remarks towards the rioters, referring to them as "scum."
The riots have claimed their first fatality: a 61-year-old man died of injuries received from rioters, French police said Monday. The violence has continued into its thirteenth night, as riots have brought commerce and transportation to a halt in some parts of France. The city of Lyon has shut down its entire public transportation system following the firebombing of a train station, while a bus exploded after being hit with a Molotov cocktail in Bordeaux.
Over 4,400 vehicles and several public buildings have been completely destroyed by the riots. Of these, about 1,147 were destroyed Sunday night, most of them by arson.
According to the AP, the state of emergency was declared under a 50-year-old law "originally drawn up to quell unrest in Algeria during its war of independence from France." Prior to Tuesday's enactment, the law was last used to quell unrest in New Caledonia in 1985.
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