Wednesday, November 09, 2005

French Rioting Appears To Lose Strength

Initial reports last night made it seem as if the rioters were picking more high-profile targets, and were being more aggressive in their encounters with police. But, while that may have been true, this morning, it looks as if the French police are gaining the upper hand. From AP:

PARIS - France's storm of rioting lost strength on Wednesday with a drop of nearly half in the number of car burnings, police said. But looters and vandals still defied a state of emergency with attacks on stores, a newspaper warehouse and a subway station.

The extraordinary 12-day state of emergency went into effect Tuesday at midnight, giving special powers to authorities in Paris, its suburbs and more than 30 other cities from the Mediterranean to the German border — an indication of how widespread arson, riots and other unrest have become in nearly two weeks of violence.

The emergency decree invoked a 50-year-old security law dating from France's colonial war in Algeria. It empowers officials to put troublemakers under house arrest, ban or limit the movement of people and vehicles, confiscate weapons and close public spaces where gangs gather.

Local officials could also choose to impose curfews. By midday Wednesday, only a few municipalities and regions had. Paris had not.

Seventy-three percent of respondents in a poll published Wednesday in daily Le Parisien said they agreed with the curfew.

Overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, youths torched 617 vehicles, down from 1,173 a night earlier, police said. Incidents were reported in 116 towns, down from 226. Police made 280 arrests, raising the total to 1,830 since the violence broke out 13 nights ago.

"The arrests are bearing fruit," said Interior Ministry spokesman Franck Louvrier. "It's clear there has been a significant drop, but we must persevere."

Christian Gaillard de Lavernee, head of the national civil security brigade, told reporters that firefighters responded to 30 percent fewer calls overnight than the previous day.

In some towns, concerned residents have banded together to keep overnight watch on public buildings and to patrol their neighborhoods, armed only with fire extinguishers.

Riot police fired tear gas to disperse youths throwing gasoline bombs in the southwestern city of Toulouse, and rioters used Molotov cocktails to blow up an unoccupied bus powered by natural-gas in the town of Bassens, near Bordeaux. No injuries were reported.

Subway service that had been shut down in the eastern city of Lyon resumed Wednesday after a firebomb exploded in a station late Tuesday. No one was injured, but city transport officials announced that bus and subway service will be halted each evening at 7 p.m. at least until Sunday as a precaution.

Arsonists also set fire to a warehouse used by Nice-Matin newspaper in Grasse, national police spokesman Patrick Reydy said. Youths looted and set fire to a furniture and electronics store and an adjacent carpet store in Arras in the north, he said.

The northern city of Amiens, central Orleans and Savigny-sur-Orge, and the Essonne region south of the capital were putting into place curfews for minors, who must be accompanied by adults at night. Two cars burned in Amiens overnight despite the curfew, compared with six a night earlier, police said.

Looks like it will be over in a day or two. Good. Now, what are the French going to do about these "disaffected youth" in their midst?