Paris Burns Again (Monday night update)
Monday 11 pm
Violence is spreading from Villiers le Bel to a dozen neighboring communities. At least twenty policemen have been injured so far tonight (forty injured last night according to the latest figures), some of them critically. The insurgents are using firebombs, iron rods, baseball bats, and firing buckshot. Journalists are attacked, their cameras are stolen. The mayor of Villiers le Bel is running a crisis center from an undisclosed location. Interior Minister Mich√®le Alliot-Marie is strangely absent, silent, or ineffectual. This is not the way it is supposed to be happening in the Sarkozy government. Don't be surprised if Alliot-Marie is replaced early next year.
Cars, dumpsters, and buildings have been torched. A school gym has gone up in flames. Shop windows that weren't smashed last night are targets tonight.
Police investigators and several eyewitnesses corroborate the patrolmen's version of the accident. The police car was going at a normal speed, no sirens, no hot pursuit. The mini-motorcycle came down a side street at high speed and made a left turn, crashing directly into the police car. The police remained on the scene for approximately twenty to thirty minutes until the fire department ambulance arrived.
President Sarkozy, on a state visit to China, issued a plea for calm. It must have seemed quite logical from where he's standing... but it's totally inaudible here on the receiving end.
The tally on Sunday's punk jihad outburst is heavy and rising.
Twenty-five policemen injured, dozens of cars burned, shops destroyed, individuals assaulted. Blind with rage, the rampaging mob found time to steal before smashing and burning. For the brother of Mushin, one of the victims, "it's not violence, it's an expression of rage."
Journalists are unwelcome, often assaulted, but they are getting the story out.
According to concurrent reports, the rage broke out immediately. The police claim the motorcycle ran into their patrol car at an intersection; the enraged know better-the police car in hot pursuit of the innocent boys, Moushin and Larami, smashed into their motorcycle. Moushin's uncle was outraged because the bodies were left lying in the fire station. But it seems that the forces that came to pick them up had to turn back because they were attacked. The boys had gone out to do a little bit of rodeo, a favorite sport in the banlieue projects. Le Parisien posted You Tube videos filmed by reckless kids.
Reckless, yes, but when they get wrecked it's the fault of the police, the Peugeot dealership, and McDonald's.
The euphemism for these enclaves -- "quartier sensible"-bears a nugget of truth if correctly translated as "touchy neighborhoods." Villiers le Bel is in the administrative district of Sarcelles / Garges-les-Gonesses about 20 km north of Paris. Not so long ago Sarcelles was the home sweet home of Jewish refugees from North Africa; today it is their nightmare. They endure constant attacks and harassment from the permanently enraged African-Arab-Muslim residents who live cheek by jowl with their still neat clean streets.
Socialist leader Fran√ßois Hollande is demanding the truth, the whole truth and of course the right truth on this incident-it has to be the fault of the police, the fault of the brutal Sarkozy government, the fault of deaf ears turned to the suffering of youths in this, the touchiest of touchy neighborhoods.
Whether this remains an isolated incident or the beginning of a new chain of assaults against law and order, it exposes the recent strike for what it is: psychodrama in a country whose citizens voted for just the opposite. Neither the railroad workers nor the voters will get anything worth having if they don't come to terms with the seething rage in those touchy enclaves. Readers who have been following the al Dura affair will notice the child-killing motif-you killed our kid(s) we'll burn your house down.
Fires are raging in the banlieue tonight. Two boys aged 15 and 16 riding on a mini-motorcycle (prohibited on the road) hit a police car this afternoon in Villiers-le-Bel. The boys, who weren't wearing helmets, were killed. Hundreds of enraged men and boys are tearing up the neighborhood.
Le Parisien reports that they burned down a Peugeot dealership, sacked a train station and shops, tore up a McDonald's, stole the day's receipts and attacked customers, smashed and burned cars, and are still going strong. A police commissioner who tried to talk to the mob was attacked with iron rods; his face and skull are fractured. A police station was burned down, seven policemen were injured.
Interviewed by Le Parisien, the uncle of Moushin Souhhali, one of the victims, says he understands the rage; it's terrible to lose a 15 year-old boy. His body, claims the uncle, was dumped at the fire station with no respect. The police who, in his opinion, caused the accident were nowhere to be seen. He heard they were speeding. His nephew was a good boy, not a delinquent.
The November 2005 riots that lasted three weeks were triggered by the death by electrocution of two teenage boys who ran away from the police and hid in an electric substation. According to the sociological interpretation of the incident, the police were guilty of pursuing the innocent boys.