Friday, January 02, 2009

France's Car Burnings: More Than Just A Paris Ritual

Out of the 1,147 car burnings reported for France's fiery New Year's Eve, not all attacks were in the usual expected places, such as the internationally infamous neighborhood of Seine-Saint-Denis, on the outskirts of Paris.

Small and medium-sized cities throughout the country had small and medium-sized waves of fiery vandalism of their own. Here's a quick round-up of accounts from smaller communties that won't get much North American media attention, courtesy of various French regional newspapers [my loose translation from the original French sources]:
In the southern department of Drôme, in the town of Pierrelate (population 11,900) a fire set in a garbage can spread to a nearby electrical connection, and the resulting flames brought a team of workers from the EDF ("French Electricity Board) to the scene:

While waiting for the electricians, Pierrelate firefighers and police were hit with a rain of projectiles coming from a group of fifteen people. One of the firefighters vehicles was hit by a projectile that damaged the hood. A drunken youth in his 20s was arrested. Placed in the drunk tank, he was released yesterday morning. ...
In Avignon (population 90,000) the police and firefighters were kept busy all night long, starting with the first car being set aflame at 5:17 PM, the ninth and last call coming at 9:47 the following morning. (A Peugeot 207 was torched at exactly the stroke of midnight, in a sad display of misdirected exuberance.) Five garbage containers were also set on fire throughout the night.
In Orange (population 29,000) two cars were burned in exactly the same parking lot, two hours apart. No arrests were made...

Orange is within the département of Vaucluse; François-Xavier Lauch, the police commissioner for this southeast French region, reports that overall 15 cars were burned that night, compared to only ten cars the previous year.

"It's one of the nights that worries us the most but thankfully the damages were limited... [We] had a maximum of 90 police officers, 50 detectives, 40 riot police and 400 firefighters on the ground, positioned all over the Vaucluse. The objective is to have a presence over all public streets, not just in the so-called sensitive neighborhoods or big cities.
The Journal de Saône-et-Loire offers a dry summary of their département's tally of torched automobiles; four cars in Chalon-sur-Saône (population 191,000), one car in Autun (population 16,400), two cars in Mâcon (population 36,000), two cars in Montceau-les-Mines (population 20,600)...

Some of the commentors at the media site, however, are less sanguine about the ritualized violence taking place in their communities:
"As if it New Year's Eve was the only night when our urban "youths" set fire to cars... It happens every night that they burn in Chalon and that firefighters and police are attacke! And how does our new city council handle it? With a brand new library, which will cost a fortune for the residents, to calm the thugs down! ... If they [the authorities] would finally take some radical measures, that would start to change things."

In Carpentras (population 26,000) in Southern France, the first call came unexpectedly early, at 9:30 PM:
... On the scene, they went through all the trouble in the world in order to intervene, suffering thrown firecrackers and stones. There were ten men in place, four vans, soon joined by police. All through the night, they put out five car fires, and two others which were partially demolished, the last [...] around 3 in the morning.

In a rare gesture of sympathy, the French media gives a voice to the victims of the rampaging youth:
Yesterday morning, residents in the neighborhood expressed their bitterness. "Now it happens almost every night", said the father of a family. "I don't want to live here anymore." And one of the unfortunate owners of a burned out car despaired, impotently: "I came here three years ago with my wife and three kids. At this moment I have no job, my insurance will not cover me. This is a catastrophe. They have to arrest these youths, why is this happening?"

Sadly, they probably know why it happens; we all know by now, don't we. The real question is, what "radical measures" are they prepared to take to reduce it...

1 comment:

Guy Macher said...

The French, for all their faults, have never been racist as a society. They have always embraced other cultures because they believed their culture was so overwhelmingly superior and seductive that all men would want to be French.

Enter the barbarian. The French are still puzzled by the rejection.

It is fitting the barbarians burn automobiles, a symbol of western progress, something their medieval minds cannot fully comprehend.

If we want to save Europe, it will come down to more than suspending the driving privileges of barbarian youth.

It is time for another Crusade.