Posted on November 9, 2005

Widow Blames Minister in Death of Husband

The Age (Melbourne), Nov. 8

Speaking in her apartment in the northern Paris of Stains on Monday night, Nicole Le Chenadec was calm and clear.

Her husband had died that day after lying in a coma for four days and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was to blame.

“He lit the fuse with his provocative remarks,” Mrs Le Chenadec told reporters. “It is because of him that Jean-Jacques is dead.”

After 12 days of rioting on the fringes of Paris and other French cities, it is still unclear how the French population at large is responding, who they blame and how the violence will change French politics.

Mrs Le Chenadec is only one person but London-based French political scientist Jean-Jacques Reland, who has spent the past three or four days in France, thinks she is not alone in blaming the Government.

While a large minority were saying “Bring in the army”, most people thought that “these people (the rioters) are the results of our mistakes. This problem highlights the failure of integration policy in France”, Mr Reland said.

The death of Mr Le Chenadec, 61, the first since the electrocution of two teenage boys on October 27 that started the riots that have spread across the country, has shocked his suburb of Stains, just two train stops north of the centre of Paris.

On Thursday night, several days after Mr Sarkozy described rioters as scum, Mr Le Chenadec went downstairs with his friend Jean-Pierre Moreau to put out a fire that youths had lit in rubbish bins.

Mr Moreau has been a social worker in the neighbourhood for decades and felt confident that he could talk to the hooded young men gathered in a knot on the street. But when he approached them one punched him in the neck, then hit Mr Le Chenadec in the face, knocking him to the ground. The former Renault car worker cracked his skull and fell into a coma.

His death has appalled the Stains community.

On Monday night local councillors and Mr Moreau addressed a demonstration of 300 people in honour of Mr Le Chenadec outside his apartment.

The ethnically diverse crowd was typical of the mix in Paris’ northern suburbs, and included many from Muslim backgrounds.

“It’s a shocking thing,” said Mohammed, a man in his 50s who like many demonstrators wore a sticker that said: “Together we say no to violence.”

A woman of Algerian background standing in the crowd with her teenage daughter said the young rioters had no respect and it was time to call in the army.