PARIS—Fed up with television images of her country in flames, Paris hairdresser Vesna Djoric said it is time for the French to stop being so tolerant of immigrant troublemakers and consider replacing compassion with toughness.
“It’s about time somebody said what we’re all thinking,” Ms. Djoric said, adding that she fully supported a recent call by the hard-line interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, for France to “pump out” its rioting “scum.”
After nearly two weeks of nightly riots across the country, France shows growing signs of an anti-immigrant backlash as horrified citizens demand a harsher crackdown on troublemakers. Some French are warning that the country’s current mood could damage relations with Muslims and bolster support for a right-wing extremist party.
In a poll published by the newspaper Le Parisien, 73 percent of respondents backed the government’s new get-tough measures to halt firebomb attacks by rioting gangs of youths. The French Riviera city of Nice joined a growing number of municipalities imposing emergency measures.
“The government needs to take stronger action. These are delinquents and drug dealers, and Sarkozy is right to say it. You have to call a cat a cat,” said a Paris pharmacist who would identify himself only as Mr. Parienti. “Their problem is they don’t want to integrate into our society. They think they can live here and maintain their own culture apart from ours.”
Ms. Normand disagreed with Mr. Sarkozy’s use of the word “scum” to describe the rioters but said she approved of his overall response, especially concerning measures that would reduce the growing immigrant population and help cut the nation’s double-digit unemployment rate.
“French fathers and mothers are going jobless while employers give jobs to the immigrants. We need a French-first policy when it comes to jobs,” she said. “I think Europe in general has been far too liberal in opening its borders. They need to make a rule: If you don’t have a work agreement with a specific company, you can’t come in.”
Members of the National Front staged a small demonstration Wednesday in Paris, unveiling a new campaign with T-shirts declaring, “France: Love it or leave it.” The party shocked the French political establishment when its leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, won 17 percent of votes in the first round of presidential elections in 2002, only 3 percentage points behind incumbent President Jacques Chirac.