Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Fire
This Time

From the Telegraph:

11am update: France declares state of emergency

In pictures: Paris burns after week of rioting

France was struggling to overcome one of its gravest post-war crises last night as every major city faced the threat of fierce rioting that began 12 nights ago and now seems to have spun out of control.

Despite an assurance from Philippe Douste Blazy, the foreign minister, that France was "not a dangerous country", the spread of violence prompted the Foreign Office in London to warn travellers that trouble could break out "almost anywhere".

Although the disorder began on the intimidating sink estates of Paris's northern suburbs, trouble had been reported yesterday in the early hours from most regions of the country. Even areas such as Brittany, the Loire and Bordeaux, favoured by British holidaymakers and second- home hunters, have now been drawn into the worst wave of unrest in France since the spring revolt of 1968 set in motion the downfall of Gen Charles de Gaulle.

Even before renewed disturbances broke out last night, figures showed that rioters had wrecked 4,700 vehicles, injured more than 100 police and rescue workers, and opened fire in at least six separate incidents.

Of the 1,200 people arrested, more than 30 - half of them juveniles - have already been jailed or given youth custody.

The police union Action Police CFTC called for curfews to be imposed in all riot-hit areas to combat the "civil war that spreads a little more every day". The mayor of one town, Raincy, north of Paris, announced a late-night street ban on children to "avoid a tragedy". The union also urged the government to send in troops to defeat the trouble-makers, mainly mobs of young people from poor estates dominated by Muslim families whose origins are in France's former colonies in north and sub-Saharan Africa.

Twenty-four hours earlier, a belated and much-criticised intervention by President Jacques Chirac, his first since the violence began, was followed by the worst night of rioting so far.
More than 1,400 vehicles were destroyed, two policemen were injured by birdshot and petrol bomb attacks were launched on schools, churches and public buildings.

Mr Chirac, who had spoken of a French republic resolved to show itself "stronger than those who want to sow violence or fear", made more conciliatory comments in a private meeting yesterday.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia said the French president had admitted to him that "ghettoisation of youths of African or North African origin" was to be deplored, as was French society's "incapacity to fully accept them".

Pascal Clement, the justice minister, announced that three boys, aged 16, had been detained in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence for allegedly using their weblogs, hosted by a pop music radio station, to urge others to riot.

The Foreign Office yesterday warned Britons already in France or considering travelling there that the unrest could now break out "almost anywhere".

The new travel advisory painted a much more alarming picture of the threat to British citizens than a similar bulletin issued on Sunday.

Britons should also "avoid any demonstrations which may be taking place in and around" areas affected by the riots, said the Foreign Office website.

A few things to note. Obviously, there has been a clampdown on reporting of the number of cars destroyed. And, in other reports I have seen, the repeated line is that the riots are "decreasing." This could well be, but if there are no specific reports on destruction, or even hotpoints, then we really have no idea.

No Pasaran is reporting more rioting in Belgium.

Also, note that Britain issued an even sterner travel advisory today, then the one which was issued yesterday. Does that indicate the situation is not getting better?

Chiraq ought to step down. He doesn't have what it takes to control a situation like this. He's just not a wartime Consigliore.

UPDATE: Roger Simon is reporting that things have indeed quieted down a bit in France:

Things have quieted down a bit in France. 1173 vehicles were torched last night compared to 1408 the night before. With more draconian short-run emergency powers put in by the government plus an ever-increasing police presence, it is likely (although far from certain) that things will continue to simmer down, at least for now. Of the temporary powers, one that caught my eye was "allowing police to carry out raids for suspected stockpiling of weapons." Who was doing that? Or is it that just a precautionary measure? It would be interesting to find out.