PARIS BLUES A Cop Killing at the Carnival

The French presidential campaign had not yet digested the March 27th Gare du Nord riots when a dramatic new clash between rioters and the police has hit the news. This time the incident occurred at the Foire du Trône, an amusement park in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. There was not one turnstile jumper but a whole bunch of cheaters. And a 31 year-old policeman is dead.

Employees of the Maxximum Ferris wheel got in a fight with a group of--well, at this stage of the investigation they are still "youths"-let's say a bunch of hoodlums massed on the access ramp waiting to jump on for a free ride. Two policemen intervened.

Patrolman Reynald Caron somehow landed in the path of the turning wheel and was slammed with such force it nearly beheaded him. His colleague almost passed out at the sight. The "youths" scattered.

Initially the media reported the death as accidental. Now two witnesses--Silvio Bolinio, 40 years old and Christian Marcel, 43--have come forward to testify. They say the youths deliberately pushed one of the policemen into the path of the Ferris wheel, he stumbled, the gondola hit him and sent him flying. The police are investigating.

For three days the chief Prosecutor of Paris, Jean-Claude Marin, was visibly twisting and squirming as he tried to deny the obvious: Someone had pushed the policeman into the path of the Ferris wheel. And the policeman was dead. No, no, it was an accident. A simple Brownian effect of a milling crowd. No intrepid reporter (I was out of town) thought to visit the fairgrounds and describe the scene of the crime...or accident. But common sense would suggest that there had to be a barrier between the access ramp and the wheel. How could a random crowd surge project a policeman over the barrier and into the path of the deadly wheel?

The incident that triggered the police intervention was consistently described as a brawl between the "forains" and the "youths." "Forains" are the people who run these amusement parks, which grew out of traditional country fairs. Forains have a reputation for toughness and brawling but in this case the "forains" were apparently trying to keep a bunch of cheaters from getting a free ride, and the cheaters turned on them and started fighting. Perhaps they fought back. That still doesn't make it a brawl. There were many complaints about unruly young men misbehaving on the fair grounds. No matter how many policemen were on duty, it never seemed to be enough.

The two eyewitnesses, S. Bolinio and C. Marcel, courageously showed their faces on television, and described how the patrolman was deliberately hit and shoved into the path of the Ferris wheel.

Several young men, described as key witnesses, were brought in for questioning. The news broke this evening--one of them, a 15 year-old, admits he pushed the policeman. He is now charged with involuntary manslaughter. Other details are leaking out.

The youths in question belong to a gang of "blacks" ("black" is the politically correct French word for "noirs.") from la Cité des Pyramides -- a tough housing project in Evry in the southern suburbs of Paris. The culprit is a big husky kid, with a long record of violence, particularly against men in uniform. His friends say that when he blows a fuse, nothing can stop him. It seems that when he got back from the Fair that evening he bragged to friends and family about hitting and shoving the patrolman. A buddy of his also admits to hitting the cop, but says he didn't shove him.

Le Procureur had to abandon the hypothesis of 'Accidental death by Ferris wheel,' but managed to find a new understatement: the young man undoubtedly pushed the policeman 'so as to avoid arrest.'

If that's the case, he seriously miscalculated. He's looking at the possibility of twenty years in prison. But who knows what evil lurks in the heart of a "youth"? Witnesses described the scene as something out of a horror movie. Reynald Caron was so badly mutilated that his widow was not allowed to see the body. Prime time news spared about 40 seconds of cold attention to the funeral.

Why the low key treatment? If a policeman had accidentally pushed a "youth" into the path of a Ferris wheel or a roller coaster it could have set off weeks of mayhem. Why the unanimously cool attitude to a truly horrifying story? And what does it have to do with the presidential campaign?

Every day is blame Sarkozy day in the French media as the first round of the presidential elections looms. It hasn't made a dent in his popularity, he still comes up the winner in every poll while his rivals-Royal, Bayrou and Le Pen-go in circles like goldfish in a small bowl, and the half a dozen extreme Left revolutionaries sputter six versions of the same tune--take the money from the rich and give it to the poor.

But that doesn't keep some Sarkozy blamers from imagining that the death of a policeman would be chalked up as a negative stroke for the former Interior Minister (he resigned in the last week of March). You see, the line goes, Sarkozy -- tricky guy that he is -- rules his replacement with an iron hand. Curious twisted reasoning. And nothing could have kept the media from puffing up the story to fever pitch if they thought it could possibly harm Sarkozy. Journalists are not allowed to freely express their opinions and preferences, so they do it by manipulating the news. Innocently, of course.

On the one hand it seems like almost everyone, from the Prosecutor of Paris to your jejune corner journalist, was afraid that if a crime had in fact been committed at the Foire du Trône, then the guilty party might be found...and would have to be punished...eventually. And the only candidate whose campaign would not be jeopardized by that issue is...Nicolas Sarkozy.

On the other hand most of the other candidates are breathlessly courting the French "diversity" vote as if it could tip the scales in their favor. That piece of savagery in the amusement park certainly puts a pinch in the increasingly colorful photo-ops of François Bayrou, who seems to spend all his time in violent and tough neighborhoods telling people that he's the man who'll make France peaceful and friendly ...to them.

After months of solo campaigning Bayrou finally found his right hand man, Azouz Begag, former Undersecretary for Equal Opportunity in the Villepin government. Begag didn't like Sarkozy to begin with but his animosity was enflamed by Sarkozy's "rough tactics" during the 2005 banlieue uprising. Last month Begag announced that he was backing Bayrou-but remained in the UMP cabinet. Last week he published a mud slinging book against Sarkozy and Villepin asked him to leave. So now he's free to ride shotgun for Bayrou. They take the métro together, hang around in the 'hood, do their thing.

Other candidates for the presidency compete in the unattractiveness sweepstakes.

The whacko altermondialiste (i.e. anti-globalization protester ) José Bové gets his kicks with the illegal immigrants of France.

The kewpie doll, Olivier Besancenot [Ligue communiste révolutionnaire], makes doe eyes at the working class and caters to anti-Zionist passions.

Jean-Marie Le Pen [Front National] after slamming Sarkozy for the domestic audience as the immigrant who has the effrontery to run for president, declared in an interview with a Lebanese daily that Sarkozy is a danger to France because he's a friend of Israel.

Ségolène Royal - not to be upstaged by Le Pen -- harrumphed, in the same or another Lebanese paper, that if elected she would certainly not shake hands with George Bush "comme si de rien n'était," - 'as if it were a normal thing to do.'

The Green Party candidate, Dominique Voynet, hoes a similar row. And the off the wall Worker's Party [Parti des Travailleurs] candidate, Gérard Schivardi, who looks like a professional drunk, promises to nationalize, in fact expropriate the banks and all major industries. He'll pay a bit to the small shareholders, but the moneybags and the pension funds can cry in their beer, they won't get a penny.

Arlette Laguiller, eternal candidate of the Worker's Combat Party [Lutte Ouvrière] wants to pave the country from coast to coast with low cost no cost housing, and give back every job that was ever taken away from any factory worker ever.

All of the above candidates have something to lose when the death of a policeman in the line of duty gets too much attention.

Does it mean that the Leftwing candidates, the Prosecutor of Paris, and the media are in cahoots? And can get away with murder...or let a "youth" get away with it?

I don't think so. Something more profound is at work, a slow process of dhimmitude that is setting up its own laws and prohibitions. It does not mean that the young man (will we ever know his name?) who pushed the policeman to his death is a Muslim. What it does mean is that French society has internalized an attitude of self-indictment.

Society is in the wrong; when criminals lift their hands against the social order, the representatives of that order are guilty and should take their punishment without a fuss. When an illegal immigrant Chinese grandfather was arrested near the school where he goes to pick up his grandchildren, the do-gooders interfered with the police, the story was in the news for days. When the police were photographed by an amateur cameraman looking out his window as they arrested two drunk-driving students, it was a cause célèbre. The video was played and replayed, pinpointed and highlighted for hand-wringing. One of the students showed his bruised face to the TV audience and complained of police brutality. But it is alleged that the students were also dealing drugs and had been arrested frequently for criminal activity.

All of the candidates on the French Left, beginning with Royal, including Bayrou, and all the way to the radical's radical, Schivardi, promise to redistribute income and pacify society. After the battle at Gare du Nord, they accused the Right of dragging the law & order issue into the campaign, where it does not belong. Citizens, they claim, want to hear about wage increases, subsidized housing, job security, and retirement pay. The atrocious death of a young patrolman disturbs these advocates of soft government. We will soon know how voters judge their game. The first round of voting will take place on Sunday, 22 April 2007. The wheel turns... Les jeux sont faits. Place your bets.