Tuesday, December 18, 2007

French Youths' War Against The System

The attacks of French “youth” keep escalating in scale, to a frightful degree. Can it still be called “juvenile delinquency”, when there are out-and-out attacks against schools, libraries, and police stations? Does anybody still believe that unemployment is the reason teenagers are attacking firefighters with iron bars? This has come a long, long way from indiscriminate vandalism… if that's what it ever was.

From last week, we find this sobering report (joylessly translated by myself from the original french newspaper Le Figaro), on the evolved form of rampage the understaffed, outmatched and disillusioned police forces must now contend with, all too frequently:

Several dozen youths from the community of Saint-André, in Réunion, tried to burn down the city’s police station during the night, and set fire to cars and shops.
These incidents kicked off around 10:00 pm when youths armed with bats and iron bars attacked the administrative police station, closed at that hour and located downtown. They set fire to a garbage can pushed against the doorway, which started a fire and damaged the front of the building.

When police arrived on the scene, they were pelted with stones and had to beat a retreat. The youths then set fire to the offices of an insurance agency, which was destroyed along with two vehicles. The owner of a pizza delivery truck was lightly wounded by a blow from an iron bar.
Jean-Paul Virapoullé (UMP), mayor of Saint-André, hotly denounced these acts, estimating that the instigator is a “notorious gangster” who “is not of french nationality”. “If [the forces of law and order] can’t protect us from these acts, we will bring about the rule of law ourselves”, he said.

A televised report on the story adds haunting visuals to the nightmare.

The forementioned truck-driving owner of the pizzeria set ablaze by the youths speaks to the reporter, blood still seeping from his head wound. He valiantly tried to save his business, but was brutally attacked (“at least three youths threw themselves at me”, he says in his interview); his wound comes from being struck on the side of the head by an iron bar wielded by one of the youths.

He is saved only by the quick reactions of his spouse. “When I saw that they were using their weapons to attack, I had to hurl my car at them to separate them. That was how we were able to escape.” She also says that she saw the youths carrying swords as well as bars and bats. ["sabres"... maybe the proper translation should be machetes...?]

When the riot first broke out, there were only seven police officers on the scene; what could they do against forty, asks the reporter, rhetorically. It took 45 minutes in order for several dozen reinforcements to arrive from neighboring cities.

Saint-Andre had never before experienced events on such a scale, says the journalist. A local offers his opinion: “Cars go by with women and children in them, they get stones thrown at them.. it’s serious, it’s very serious, it’s a catastrophe.”

[Thanks to BafWeb for the story]


tiberge said...

@ charles

I'm posting a link to this article and the preceding one. I've read it over several times but see no reference to the fact that this happened on Reunion Island, in the Indian Ocean, a department of France, with a population of under a million.

Do you want to add something, or do you feel it's self explanatory?

The fact that the overseas territories are erupting is significant. An island could be totally overrun and the French administrators all killed in a matter of minutes. This would set off repercussion on mainland France.

In February 2006, a French gendarme was killed on the island of Guadeloupe. It was said at the time that crowds shouted racial slurs at him (he was white) while he lay dying. I don't know if that was ever proven, but it was a big story at the time.

Charles Henry said...


Thank you for adding that layer of detail, I was in a hurry when I posted and decided to limit my piece to the news of the violence itself, downplaying the angle of its location.