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Police clash with youth in Paris suburb

As though France had not learned a lesson from November 2005’s rioting in 300 French cities by immigrant youths, national police, playing dangerously with fire, clashed with nearly 100 youth and numerous rioters were arrested in the Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois districts on May 30. The area is close to Clichy-sous-Bois, where last year’s violence took place based on a erroneous data . Young thugs, armed with baseball bats and gas bombs, took to the streets upon receiving word that three compadres, suspected in a robbery, had been arrested in Les Bosquets by authorities who fired rubber bullets into a crowd of rowdy youth. As a result, nine officers were injured in just three hours of violence. The violence was sparked by an arrest on May 29 of a woman and her son who beat a bus driver two weeks earlier in May. That attack was witnessed and interceded by Montfermeil’s Mayor Xavier Lemoine. Various government buildings sustained minor damage to windows and public trash cans were set ablaze in the ensuing violence. National police reinforcements had been deployed to the Montfermeil area to restore and maintain calm. Additionally, anti-riot squads were deployed to nearby towns in case violence began to spread. Tensions were felt in Paris when 20 men from Tribu Ka, followers of Louis Farrakan, screamed anti-Semitic slogans in Marais, a Jewish area of the city. This was not the first time in recent months anti-Semitism has surfaced in Paris . The Interior Ministry is attempting to ban the Tribu Ka web site for “incit[ing] violence and hatred.’ (source) The mere presence of Parisian police in what is viewed as our-versus-their space could well keep emotions boiling. The perception of police as being aggressive, anti-immigrant, and above the law, reinforces those who protest violently that their efforts are justified. Further, in this particular neighborhood, Lemoine attempted to ban groups of more than three youths (15-18-year olds) and require anyone under 16 to have adult supervision after 8pm. While his efforts failed, his sentiment is heard clearly by his immigrant constituency: we don’t want you here; we don’t trust you; and we will make things difficult for you in particular with the law on our side. With tensions high, what might normally be an inconvenience or a slight discomfort could easily?and likely?escalade into rioting and violence. The outbreak serves as a constant reminder that emotions run high and cross-cultural relations remain strained, at best, and non-existent, at worst. Immigrant families perceive discrimination, xenophobia, alienation, and unwelcome behavior from their host country . These sentiments, as often described in these pages, are rife for radicalism to take hold, offering a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and a greater cause. The French government vowed in 2005 to address socio-economic disparities and to improve both living conditions and job opportunities, but the concern is whether the populations are patient enough to see it through and whether xenophobic politicians?particularly Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (see photo by Marco Pirrone), can stay out, or be kept out, of the limelight. Thus far, frustratingly little has been done, and President Jacque Chirac’s apparent attempt to create jobs ended horribly. Chirac and his administration cannot sit by idly, hoping the crisis will simply abate or resolve itself. Chirac needs to show concrete measures he is taking to remedy the wild disparities between immigrants and their descendants and indigenous French in his country. Until these issues are acknowledged, addressed, and corrected, neighborhoods like Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois will remain tinderboxes. As the Greens Party politician said: “it is still boiling and the fire can start again with the slightest spark.”

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