French Strikers Strike Out
The Great Day -- Le Grand Jour -- did not occur. The transit strike ground to a halt after attempting to gain strength from a one-time civil servants' demonstration and the lopsided student movement. The street is quiescent for now, but they've threaten to go on strike again...just before Christmas.
The end of the strike was punctuated by a macabre incident: last Sunday morning Anne-Lorraine a 23 year-old journalism student was murdered on the RER D (banlieue commuter train). Service had barely resumed after the 10-day strike when a 43 year-old suspect-who has since confessed found himself alone with the young woman and tried to rape her. The victim resisted and he stabbed her thirty times in the head and chest, with two blows straight into her heart. The suspect is being treated for a serious wound to the femoral artery under police guard in a Gonesses hospital. The suspect is no stranger to the law; he served 3 years of a 5-year-term for rape at knife-point on the same RER D in 1996. The line, which passes through crime ridden banlieues on its way from the center of Paris to bucolic suburbs, has a reputation for rape and violence. Anne-Lorraine's family lives in a lovely home at the end of the line.
The student movement has choked on its contradictions. Extremely violent undemocratic far left elements using strong-arm techniques alienated the masses of students. Hopes of reproducing the glorious success of the anti-CPE (flexible job contract) movement that brought down then PM Villepin six months ago were dashed. Just two thousand turned up for last Tuesday's demonstration in Paris.
University presidents, still paying for the damage caused by the anti-CPE movement 1 ¬Ω years ago, were not about to be vandalized this time around. No sooner did the lumpen proletariat pseudo students block a few entrances with tables and chairs and padlocks than the president closed the entire university. Anti-blockade students organized to defend their rights. At the University of Rennes in Bretagne, a hot bed of radical protest, students voted democratically-by secret ballot-- against the blockade. When the revolutionaries resumed their strong arm tactics, the college president called in the riot police. It turned out most of the blockaders were not students but anarchists and other extremists, primed with booze, unwashed and ready to spread filth and graffiti.
La Sorbonne was closed last week after "violent incidents in the Cour d'Honneur." I introduced myself to a student who had commuted from the banlieue only to find that he could not attend classes. A nice looking soft spoken young man with velvety brown eyes, he began with the existential anguish line--the reform should have been carefully explained and slowly applied or else it could lead to that horror, the privatization of the universities. I asked him if he knew that hundreds of thousands of students get a decent low-cost education at state colleges all over the United States. He didn't know, he thought everything was as costly as Harvard. (A background clip on the abovementioned Duel program claimed that annual tuition at "public universities" is $26,000. In fact, resident tuition at U of Southern Florida, for example, is about $2,800.) But the Sorbonnard chided me for trying to influence him. "You're not objective," he said. I should let him express his opinion and keep mine to myself. I asked him what he is studying. Economics. And what does he plan to do? Finance. Gulp! How does he intend to participate in the international economic system without accepting the rules of the game? He'll find a way, he says, assuring me that he will always maintain high ethical standards, but hinting that the opinions he had just expressed were part of his student wardrobe. While we talked, sanitation workers were tearing down posters and sweeping up tracts. My student in Economics isn't concerned by the fact that the rankings of French universities have slipped drastically. He thinks it's normal that the vast majority of first year students flunk out. They're finding themselves.
And I wonder who's funding this anguished search. The garbage men?
Those days of "finding oneself" may be over. Even if you don't learn it in Economics courses at the Sorbonne, there's no sugar daddy to pay for these hijinks anymore and the Sarkozy government will not surrender.
Student union leaders Julie Coudry (Conf√©d√©ration √©tudiante) and Bruno Julliard (UNEF), superstars of the anti-CPE movement, were marginalized by the current jihadi-style assault on the Sarkozy government. The assault was mounted under the pretext of opposition to the "Loi P√©cresse"-- piloted by Minister of Higher Education, Val√©rie P√©cresse-which will give dilapidated French universities a new lease on life with greater autonomy and possibilities of seeking outside investment. As Julie and Bruno, in a sort of last hurrah, relayed the existential angst of students in a late-night Sunday TV debate animated by Christine Ockrent (Duel, France 3) the flames of Villiers-le-Bel were licking at their heels.
As I predicted, president Sarkozy was furious with Interior Minister Alliot-Marie and PM Fillon for failing to respond vigorously to the riots in Villiers-le-Bel. Roundly scolded by telephone from China where the president was wrapping up a state visit and French companies signed billion of dollars worth of contracts, the Ministers marched into Villiers le Bel, the local mayor came out of hiding, the enraged punk jihadis were informed that it's impolite to shoot at policemen, reinforcements were sent in for a last night of battles. A few "adult youths" caught in the act were sentenced to modest prison terms but there is a hint that the police have strong evidence against the big fish who used firearms.
The casualty figures of the three-day Villiers-le-Bel insurgency were highly unfavorable to the police --80 policemen injured one night, four of them critically in exchange for a mere six people arrested. Masked men armed with baseball bats, iron rods, rocks, firebombs, buckshot and hunting rifles attacked riot police who did not have permission to use firearms, only gas and paintballs, even though they were in a clear cases of self defense. Their rioters shot point blank. Policemen interviewed in the media expressed surprise, dismay and, worst of all, fear.
One mob victim, 43 year-old chief of the Sarcelles police department Jean-Fran√ßois Illy told Le Figaro who he ran to quell rising tension at the scene of an accident at Villiers le Bel. Illy, a peace-loving Buddhist was unarmed and was beaten with iron bars for his trouble, suffering three fractured ribs, one which perforated his lung, a broken nose, a deep cut in the brow and two black eyes.
Illy at first wanted to reassure angry neighbors the accident would be properly investigated, under judicial control. He was soon surrounded by 25 to 30 hooded men, one of who hollered: "The pigs killed our friends!" The rioters smashed Illy's unmarked police car. Another shouted "Some pigs are gonna die tonight."
His car aflame, Illy was trapped. He vainly tried defending himself with martial arts, but was soon smashed in the face with an iron rod, whereupon the blows raiend from all sides until he staggered to his feet and was rescued by responding policemen and a paramedic. Illy intends to go back to work after his 30-day convalescence. As if speaking directly to his assailants, Illy says "So far I've only identified one of the guys who cursed me... I don't hold a grudge but I have a very good memory... it will help my colleagues find the others..."
The usual suspects are trotting out the usual sociological claptrap in a desperate attempt to ignore the realities of this war against the state. The government is accused of "doing nothing" after the 2005 riots. Veterans of the earlier insurrection are invited to repeat their tale of woe, and it's broadcast all the way into the pages of American media. They aren't treated right, they aren't integrated, they don't have good jobs. President Sarkozy isn't buying it.
Addressing some 2,000 policemen and gendarmes, he said, "What happened at Villiers-le-Bel has nothing to do with a social crisis, and everything to do with thugocracy. I reject this angelic thinking that looks for a victim of society in every delinquent, a social problem in every riot." He pledged to attack the black market economy, primarily drug dealing, and to help the decent people of those territories who "are hostages... the first victims of these thugs." He promised that everything will be done to find and punish the criminals who shot at the police.
On the one hand we have the sullen gripe of a guy from Villiers-le-Bel who complains that the police are always hassling them, "we rev up a 'cycle and right away they on our ass, yeah, ok, it's illegal, the rodeos, but what we supposed to do, got no place to have fun out here, yeah, we got the rage..."
And on the other, the consternation of young mothers standing in front of the charred ruins of the kindergarten and adjacent library, tears in their eyes. Where will they leave their toddlers? They have to go to work. And the choked voice of a young woman who worked in a car dealership, sacked and burned to cinders. "Why did they destroy this place? Lots of people from the neighborhood worked here."
It's not a question of race and origins. It is a question of jihad-or, more precisely, muqawama as explained by Patrick Poole in FrontPage Magazine. It was manifest at the fringes of the transit strike and the pseudo-student movement and, in all its flaming rage, in the latest banlieue outburst. What if local populations-the "first victims...the hostages"- turned against the punk jihadis the way Iraqis are turning against al Qaida? How about a surge in the banlieue!