Thursday, December 27, 2007

French Journalists Attacked By Mob Of Youths

An older story, by internet standards, but one worth rescuing from obscurity, for what it tells us about the criminal world lurking in France's suburban nightmare. A team of French journalists visit the banlieue of Villiers le-Bel in late November, in the wake of the new round of urban rioting, in search of a story on conditions in the banlieues, and are attacked so suddenly and viciously that they must flee to save their lives. It wasn’t the story they were looking for, but the tale is recounted in a detailed blog post by one of the journalists involved.

Here is a summarized translation of his long report, “Can We Still Go To The Banlieu To Report On What Is Happening There?” (Direct translation in quotation marks)

The blogging journalist and two colleagues went to Villiers le-Bel Tuesday, in the vicinity of the library that had been ravaged the night before. They were walking along the sidewalk in front of the library, when suddenly a car quickly brakes, causing another to begin blaring its horn. As they’re wondering what the cause for the noise is, a man charges out of the parked car, yelling. Yelling at the driver of the other car, and yelling at everyone else nearby. The man is about 30 years of age, small and extremely nervous, “almost shaking with spasms”. He seems enraged, he pulls a u-turn with tires squealing. There seemed to be a 6 or 7 year old child sitting next to him in the vehicle, which the reporter says he later learned was probably the younger brother of Larami, one of the two youths killed on the Sunday.

The man gets out of his car and sees “Pierre”, described by the chronicler as “tall, blond and to sum it all up, white. His clothing also makes him the ideal scapegoat.” He wears jeans, a brown leather jacket and a bag, which marks him as a journalist, "the ‘stereotype that the youths have decided ‘do nothing but tell lies’”. When the 30 year old driver sees him, “we knew that he immediately decided that Pierre would pay for all the others, all those who are part of the other side.” He marches over towards them and starts yelling, “What are doing here! We don’t want journalists here. You, the reporter with the bag, I’ll punch your face in!” [“je vais te caser la gueule”, in original]

One of the reporters picks up the pace and lowers his head to make it seem as if he hadn’t seen the angry screamer. A few seconds later the man catches up to him and pushes him. “I place myself between them, asking the aggressor to calm down. But the man is beyond any discussion and all explanations. He doesn’t want to talk and maybe can not talk. Could he explain this anger, this rage? Is it, as every local that we had questioned had told us, caused by the impression that the media in their entirety had chosen one side? Are they repressed tears for a friend, a neighbor or a beloved child who has died? Is it anger for hated police officers whom he supposes ‘agree [conspire?] as usual to only tell lies’. In any case, the man is beyond reasoning with.”

The enraged man throws a punch. He starts yelling at the blogger, grabbing him, and Pierre starts to back away. Suddenly three, four, five youths start to surround them. As the blogger desperately tries to calm things down, one of the youths takes out an “enormous tear gas bomb”, and throws it at Pierre; it seems to miss him. By now there are over thirty people around them. A youth kicks Pierre while the blogger manages to disentangle himself from the man that had been holding on to him.

They hear voices from the crowd: “Get out of here, what are you doing screwing around here?” As they try to leave Pierre is hit by many blows and kicks, about a dozen youths are now hanging on to him, trying to get him to go down. Another tear gas bomb makes an appearance. Two of the journalists are now running downhill, pursued by different groups of four or five youths. At several points, older people intervene and this keeps allowing the reporters to escape.

One of Larami’s older brothers allows the fleeing journalists to definitively withdraw in safety. All are red-eyed, vision ruined by the smoke. The blogging reporter reflects: “I thought to myself that if this can happen in the middle of the afternoon, there’s not much chance that a night can pass any more serenely”.
Many commentors at the french blog chastise the journalist for seeming to constantly justify the violent behavior of the thugs who set upon them, and reading his account I must agree with these critics. Even while being "mugged by reality", the writer is excusing the blows striking them. It would be instructive to hear what the "older people" who kept stopping the violent youth had to say to them... a shame those individuals aren't quoted in the story. Were they justifying the attacks? Doubtful: that's why they risked a few blows themselves in order to intervene. The reporter should take his lead from these rare voices of reason: it is one thing to "know" the reason for rage and hatred, it is another thing for that motivation to serve as a legitimate excuse for evil acts. It seems, sadly, that it wasn't just the enraged 30 year-old who is "beyond reasoning".

Thanks to BafWeb for finding and highlighting the account.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ln Australia we hace a crude saying 'dumb as dogshit'. Definitely this should be applied to socialist/liberal so called journalists.