Understanding the Problem (Updated)

The riots in the Paris suburbs sparked off by the deaths of two young men, kids really, on a moped in a collision with a police car in which the police sped off after the accident, leaving the young men for dead, has continued for a second night and become more violent:

VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France, Nov. 26 — Dozens of youths clashed with the police for the second night in a row in a working- and lower-class suburb north of Paris on Monday, throwing stones, glass and firebombs against large contingents of heavily armed riot police officers and moving nimbly from target to target on several fronts, burning cars and a garbage truck.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, in China on an official visit, appealed for calm.

The clashes began when two teenagers traveling on a motorbike died in a collision with a police car on Sunday afternoon in the town of Villiers-le-Bel, about 12 miles north of Paris, in the Val d’Oise department. The two teenagers were identified in the French news media merely as 15-year-old Moushin and 16-year-old Larami, who were riding a motorbike in Villiers-le-Bel.

On Monday night, more than 100 youths had pushed riot police officers into the middle of a four-way intersection, raining projectiles on them from at least two directions. Police officers responded with tear gas and paint guns to mark the attackers for future arrest. Broken glass and used tear-gas canisters littered the roads.

At least one police officer was wounded. Within sight of the intersection, a garbage truck was on fire, apparently unattended as youths lined up behind it.

At least 15 cars were burned, with the police guarding the local fire department and protecting firefighters as they put out fires. At least three buildings suffered some fire damage, including a library and a post office, a spokesman for the police in Val d’Oise said.

Standing on the sideline of the battles, one youth was holding a poster of one of the two dead youths: “Deceased 25/11/07. Dead for nothing.”

It’s now being reported that the rioters have attacked the police with shotguns:

VILLIERS-LE-BEL, France, Nov. 27 — The number of police officers injured during clashes by French youths in a suburb north of Paris rose to 86 after a second bout of violence overnight in which 60 officers were hurt, including six who are in serious condition, police officials said.

Of the six in serious condition, four were hurt as a result of gunfire, said Francis Debuire, a representative of the General Union of Police Officers in the district where the fighting took place. One of the four lost an eye and another officer’s shoulder was shattered by a bullet after some of the youths used shotguns as well as firebombs and rocks.

Police union officials expressed concern that the violence was more severe than the fighting that had occurred in the Paris suburbs over three weeks of rioting in 2005. “The violence over the last days has been worse than two years ago in terms of its intensity,” Mr. Debuire said.

In the American political blogosphere what attention this story has received has largely been from moderate/centrist blogs and Right Blogosphere blogs, the Right Blogosphere blogs overwhelming leaping to the Francophobic and Islamophobic conclusions that a) Muslim youths are rioting in France and b) France is collapsing. I won’t speculate much on why the Left Blogosphere has been silent on the matter, mostly chiding the Right Blogosphere blogs for their reactions, other than to note that the Left Blogosphere appears primarily interested in domestic politics.

Once again, I think it’s important to understand the actual nature of the problems. The two young men who were killed in the collision that touched off the rioting were said to have been of North African descent. We don’t know where they were born. In all likelihood their grandparents emigrated from Algeria or another French department. We don’t know if they or those who’ve been rioting are Muslims. Nominally, they probably are but we have no idea if they were particularly religious.

This is not about religion; it is not about culture. That’s not at the root of the problem here. There is a problem and it’s not unique to France but one that will be of increasing significance to all of the (traditionally) ethnic states of Europe. How are those who’ve lived in France all their lives but aren’t Français de souche to be considered? Right now they’re neither fish nor fowl.

That’s why I’ve emphasized the importance of our birthright citizenship over here. It at least has a chance of giving the descendants of immigrants a stake in the country that’s the only one they’ve ever known.


There are reports that the police attempted to assist the two young men after the accident:

The 15- and 16-year-old boys, both sons of African immigrants, according to police, died when their motorbike hit a patrol car in Villiers-le-Bel.

Some residents, populated largely by immigrants and their French-born children, accused police of fleeing the crash scene. However, three eyewitnesses, interviewed on TV, said the police stayed and tried to revive the two boys with mouth to mouth resuscitation.

hat tip: A Blog for All

We now have conflicting reports. The matter should be investigated.

10 comments… add one
  • I would not overlook the possibility that this has become a thing to do. A fad almost. I’m not dismissing the core problems of unassimilated mostly-Muslim immigrants in France, but it’s also no doubt a great deal of fun to rampage around the banlieue burning cars.

  • Absolutely, Michael. Under the prevailing circumstances—lots of unemployment and a fairly cushy system of social services—it’s practically a perfect storm for hooliganism. Idle hands and all that.

  • A whole lot of unhelpful, uninformed stupidity gets unloaded in right-side cmments sections, and even blog posts, when something like this happens.

  • Fletcher Christian Link

    The right thing to do with these people?

    When they are in their own territory, nuke ’em till they glow then shoot ’em in the dark. When in ours, omit the nuking.

    Unsubtle, but effective. But nobody’s got the guts.

  • Fletcher, how are you going to shoot them in the dark here if you haven’t already nuked them? I mean, they won’t be glowing in the dark, so how will you find them?

  • Presumably, he’ll tell jokes, they’ll smile, and he’ll see their teeth.

  • Presumably, he’ll tell jokes, they’ll smile, and he’ll see their teeth.

    He should start with the joke about Mohammed and the lesbian camels.

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