But plenty will be said, and soon.
- USA TodayPosted 11/7/2005 7:32 AM Updated 11/7/2005 10:39 AM
More than 30 police hurt in France's worst riots yet
From wire reports
PARIS — A man who was beaten by an attacker while trying to extinguish a trash can fire during riots north of Paris has died of his injuries, becoming the first fatality since the urban unrest started 11 days ago, a police official said Monday.
A firefighter extinguishes a truck in
Cenon, France, one of 1,408 vehicles
torched this weekend.
By Bob Edme, AP
Youths overnight injured three dozen officers and burned more than 1,400 vehicles.
"The shockwave has spread from Paris to the provinces," said Michel Gaudin, director-general of the national police, at a Monday press conference in the capital.
The first reported death from the recent violence was a 61-year-old man reportedly beaten into a coma by a hooded youth in the Parisian suburb of Stains. The man, who had rushed out of his apartment building to put out the trash fire, died in the hospital, according to his widow, who called for the aggressor to be punished.
Sunday marked the 11th straight night of youths — predominantly from France's large Arab-Muslim minority — rampaging through suburban neighborhoods, burning vehicles, businesses and public buildings and attacking police with stones and other projectiles.
Police figures showed that 1,408 vehicles destroyed overnight — exceeding the previous day's record of 1,300 — and 395 people arrested. Almost 1,000 cars were targeted in towns and cities outside Paris, underscoring how the violence has spread from its original flashpoint.
Also, 36 policemen were injured overnight — the worst figure to date — amid signs that rioters were deliberately seeking out clashes with security forces.
Among the injured police, 10 were injured by youths firing fine-grain birdshot in a late night clash in the southern Paris suburb of Grigny, national police spokesman Patrick Hamon said. Two were hospitalized but their lives were not in danger. One was wounded in the neck and the other in the legs during what colleagues described as an ambush set by a gang of youths.
"Their aim is to get us. It is to kill policemen," an officer who witnessed the incident told Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who visited their headquarters overnight.
It was the first time police were injured by weapons fire amid signs that rioters were deliberately seeking out clashes with police, officials said.
The unrest began in the low-income Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, after the deaths of two teenagers of Mauritanian and Tunisian origin. The youths were accidentally electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation. They apparently thought they were being chased.
The growing violence is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in its suburbs, where many Africans and their French-born children live on society's margins, struggling with high unemployment, racial discrimination and despair — fertile terrain for crime of all sorts as well as for Muslim extremists offering frustrated youths a way out.
The violence — sparked on October 27 by the accidental deaths of two teenagers in an electrical sub-station in a northern Paris suburb — has fanned across the country in a nightly ritual of copycat attacks by disaffected youths complaining of economic misery and social discrimination. (Related story: Parisian suburbs at mercy of gangs, system)
Few regions of the country have been spared, with riots Sunday night in the southern towns of Toulouse, Toulon and Draguignan, Strasbourg in the east and Nantes in the west.
Tourist centers such as the Loire valley town of Blois and Quimper in Brittany were also hit. Even the small village of Villedieu-du-Temple, about eight miles from the southern town of Montauban, saw six postal vehicles destroyed.
Among the targets of the rioters were churches, nursery and primary schools, town-halls and police stations as well as warehouses, car dealerships and a film-studio at Asnieres outside Paris. In the Normandy city of Rouen rioters used a car as a battering-ram against a police station.
Officials said more than 5,000 cars have been burned and more than 1,200 people arrested since the beginning of the trouble, which is the worst to hit France since the May student uprising in 1968.
The head of the union of French magistrates, Dominique Barella, told AFP that courts were becoming overwhelmed by the number of defendants sent before them because of the violence.
"It's impossible," Barella said. "We don't have the means in the prosecution offices to operate like emergency services."
Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan, Russia and the United States have all issued public advisories recommending that tourists in France exercise caution because of the violence.
Apparent copycat attacks may be spreading to other European cities, with five cars torched outside Brussels' main train station, police in the Belgian capital said.
French President Jacques Chirac intervened personally for the first time since the start of the unrest, summoning an inner cabinet meeting Sunday evening and declaring that "the absolute priority is the reestabishment of security and public order."
"The last word must belong to the law," Chirac said. "Those who want to sow violence or fear must be caught, judged and punished."
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin promised reinforcements for police and said that fast-track justice procedures would be set up to cope with the growing number of arrests.
"We will not accept any lawless zone," he said.
Their remarks showed the government's determination to represent a united front, despite initial reservations over the hard line taken by Sarkozy, who has been heavily criticized by protesters and the political left for his uncompromising language.
A leading Muslim group — the Union of Islamic Organizations in France — issued a fatwa or formal instruction urging Muslims not to take part in acts of violence.
"It is strictly forbidden for any Muslim ... to take part in any action that strikes blindly at private or public property or that could threaten the lives of others," the union said in a statement.
The group — which espouses an interpretation of Islam close to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, widely viewed as a radical group — is the largest component of the French Council for the Muslim Religion, the official Islamic representative body in France which was set up by Sarkozy two years ago.
France has about 5 million Muslims, the largest Islamic population in Western Europe. Many of France's immigrant communities have not assimilated, leaving some youth angry and alienated.
"This is going to shake things up," said Jean-Luc Parodi, a pollster and political analyst. "Cars burning in Paris will act as a wake-up call to people who live there."
These districts have sporadically gone up in flames before, attracting public and political attention for a brief span, and then reverting to normal life out of most peoples' sight and mind.
The issue "will be terribly booby-trapped by the presidential race," Parodi warns, referring to the likelihood that de Villepin and Sarkozy will use it to jockey for position ahead of presidential elections in 2007.
Sarkozy, a blunt speaking, energetic man, has drawn fire even from cabinet colleagues for his threats to "Karcher-ize" the "scum" in the suburbs, referring to a well known brand of industrial high-pressure cleaner. But he has not backed down, promising in an opinion piece published in the daily Le Monde this weekend that "we will no longer tolerate 'no-go' zones where organized crime and mafia dealing reign."
According to opinion poll results released Sunday, 57% of French voters have a "very good" or "fairly good" impression of Sarkozy, even though they are almost equally divided over whether he has been effective in his fight against insecurity.
The interior minister has attracted wide media coverage of his nightly trips to the trouble zones, rallying police and fire department officers.
De Villepin on the other hand has remained in his office, holding almost continuous meetings with his cabinet, young people, local government officials from the violence-plagued districts, and Muslim religious leaders, as he seeks a solution to the crisis.
Australia, Germany and Japan on Monday joined Britain, Canada, Russia and the United States in issuing public advisories that recommended that tourists to France exercise caution because of the violence.