Elaine Ganley, AP, October 28, 2006
Clichy-Sous-Bois, France — Marauding youths torched hundreds of vehicles overnight and on Saturday in renewed violence coinciding with the first anniversary of riots that exposed a deep schism between poor North African immigrants and mainstream France.
Six police were injured and 47 people were arrested, ministry officials said. Still the Interior Ministry described the night as “relative calm,” noting that up to 100 cars are torched by youths in troubled neighborhoods on an average night.
The rioting was fueled by anger at France‘s failure to offer equal opportunities to many minorities — especially Arabs and blacks — and France‘s 5 million-strong Muslim population.
The latest unrest centered on the troubled suburbs that ring Paris. Half the cars burned nationwide overnight were torched in the region around the capital. Of the 47 arrests, 33 people were taken into custody in the Paris suburbs, mostly for throwing projectiles, burning cars or generally vandalizing property, police said.
The bus attacks late Friday were not far from the site where the two teens were electrocuted in a power substation in Paris suburb Clichy-sous-Bois on Oct. 27, 2005. The two were hiding after what they thought was a police chase.
Relatives and friends of two French teenagers who were electrocuted as they fled from police a year ago have gathered in Clichy-sous-Bois near Paris. A plaque was unveiled in front of their school, and a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the power sub-station where the teenagers tried to hide.
The deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore sparked three weeks of violent riots in France’s poor suburbs as the young and unemployed vented their anger over what they saw as lack of opportunity and racial discrimination. The crowd gathered in silent prayer wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Dead for nothing”.
“It’s not by restricting them, or leaving them at home, or stopping them from going out — that’s not a solution,” said Zyed’s father. “The solution is to find them jobs, create training centres.” An inquiry into the teenagers’ deaths could lead to charges of negligence against several police officers.
In the streets, opinions varied on whether the situation had improved one year on: “Nothing has changed,” said one resident, “I would even say things have got worse — lack of security, bad behaviour by police, nothing has changed, it’s always the same.”
“It’s partly thanks to them that young people have more respect,” said one young lady. “Before, people used to say ‘Clichy, it’s the suburbs that’s all,’ now, people say things are changing.” Despite today’s call for calm, the anger — one year on — has not abated and violence continues to erupt sporadically in France’s poor suburbs.