Viry-Châtillon is a town 19 miles south of Paris. Of its population of about 30,000 people, 9,000 are foreign born. Of the remaining 21,000, many are second- and third-generation immigrants who are French by birth.
Viry-Châtillon is home to what the French euphemistically call a quarter sensible or “sensitive neighborhood.” This is the sprawling Grande Borne housing project, where 12,000 people live in 3,600 units. Amedy Coulibaly grew up there–and later went on to take hostages and kill five people at a Paris kosher supermarket at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. It’s “sensitive,” alright: Doctors refuse to make house calls, mailmen do not deliver packages, and even the police enter only in force. Thugs and drug dealers run the place.
The intersection just outside of Grande Borne is notorious for drug trafficking and attacks on motorists. Any car that comes to a stop is fair game for hijacking or to have its windows smashed and occupants robbed.
Several months ago, the mayor of Viry-Châtillon had a surveillance camera installed on a light post at the intersection. He hoped this would reduce crime but it only prompted attacks on the light post. First, drug dealers tried to cut it down with a power saw. Then they stole a truck and smashed it into the post. The city repaired the post, and stationed two squad cars–two officers per car–at the intersection to keep an eye on things.
On October 10, an estimated 20 to 30 hooded thugs launched a coordinated attack on the two cars. They smashed the windscreens with concrete blocks and threw Molotov cocktails into the cars, which were soon blackened shells. All four officers were burned, but the two in one of the cars managed to get out fairly quickly. One of them was expected to be back on the job in three weeks while the other was likely to take three months to recover.
The attackers of the other car appear to have pushed against the doors to trap the occupants inside. The badly burned officers were rushed to the hospital, where one was put into an artificial coma, and is only now, 10 days after the attack, showing some signs of improvement. His partner was released from hospital nine days after the attack but was not expected to be at work for another three months.
France has grown used to attacks on police officers, but not to attempts to burn them alive. President Francois Hollande called the attack “intolerable.” Prime Minister Manual Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve visited the scene. To the general derision of the French public, Mr. Valls said there are no “no-go zones” in France.
Police have been marching and holding vigils in solidarity with their burned comrades. They have also been demanding changes in France’s laws on police use of force, which they say are too restrictive.
The challenges facing the police were highlighted during the night of October 15–just five days after the Viry-Châtillon attack–when another “sensitive neighborhood” erupted. At Mantes-la-Jolie, 34 miles east of Paris, police were lured into an ambush by a false alarm of a car fire. An estimated 100 “youths” met the arriving officers with rocks and Molotov cocktails. They attacked under cover of darkness because they had first broken out the street lamps. It took 50 officers using tear gas and flash-bang grenades to restore order, but not before the mob had set fires in the streets and broken out the windows in the city hall annex. No police cars were set on fire, but no arrests were made either. There appeared to be no motive for the attack other than general hatred of the police.
Interior Minister Cazeneuve has since announced new equipment for police who must enter “sensitive zones.” Their car windows will have unbreakable glass and uniforms will be guaranteed non-flammable. Police are not satisfied. On October 17, there was a spontaneous, unauthorized demonstration when several hundred squad cars blocked traffic on the Champs-Elysées, the main boulevard of Paris. Lights flashed and sirens howled to emphasize demands for better protection, more police hiring, and greater freedom to use force. When the interior minister spoke of the need to discipline the police who took part, hundreds of officers around the country demonstrated in solidarity.
As of this writing, no arrests have been made in either attack. At Viry-Châtillon–as in other “sensitive neighborhoods”–there is a code of silence, and despite a special police hotline and pleas for tips, the culprits are still at large.
A crisis that cannot be solved
France is clearly facing a crisis. Part of its population is at war with the police, and the police want something done about it. But nothing that matters will be done about it because the French cannot articulate the cause of the problem. In not one of the articles about the Viry-Châtillon attack and its aftermath, I couldn’t find a single use of the words “immigrant,” “Arab” or “Muslim.” The assailants were always “youths” and the neighborhood “downtrodden.”
Everyone knows that the laughable euphemism “sensitive neighborhood” means a place where no Frenchmen live, but the French are even more squeamish about race than Americans. They don’t even like to say “white” or “black” or “Arab,” but talk about Frenchmen “of European origin” or Frenchmen “who are the result of diversity.” The French media have been united in horror at Donald Trump’s suggestion that Muslim immigration to the United States be at least temporarily halted.
There is perhaps only one French public intellectual who is prepared to state that Islam is incompatible with France: a Jew of Algerian-Berber origin named Eric Zemmour. In a recent debate entitled “What Place in France for Islam” he said that “a French Islam is impossible because Islam means ‘submission,’ and the French derive from a Germanic tribe called the Franks, which means ‘free people’.” He believes that unless there is a ruthless and probably impossible program of forced assimilation, France faces the choice of submission or civil war.
And yet, even Mr. Zemmour does not go far enough. The “youths” who are trying to kill police officers are certainly of Muslim origin but there is no evidence they are particularly religious. At Viry-Châtillon, it was probably robbers and drug peddlers who roasted the police who were guarding the surveillance cameras. The truth is that Arabs–whether deeply Muslim or nor–are incompatible with France. The French are incapable of grasping this hard truth and are therefore likely to face Mr. Zemmour’s alternatives of submission or civil war.
The United States is no different. When blacks rioted last month in Charlotte, North Carolina, there was not even a fig-leaf excuse to pretend they were fighting “racism” or “white oppression.” A black policeman who works for a black police chief shot a black criminal who refused to drop a gun. The days of violence that followed were just as much an expression of hatred for the larger society as were the attacks on police officers in France. Were they not proof that blacks–at least in certain numbers under certain circumstances–are incompatible with America?
Neither the French nor the Americans can solve their race problem because they are mentally paralyzed. They refuse to see that the multi-racial societies they are trying to build cannot succeed, and they continue to pile compromise onto accommodation rather than give up on a futile goal.
President Francois Hollande says the violence at Viry-Châtillon is “intolerable.” Really? Judging from the recent pace of violence in “sensitive areas,” unless he is prepared to strike at the root of the problem, he is just going to have to keep tolerating the “intolerable.”