Riots return to France

Last November, Sudhir Venkatesh over at the Freakonomics blog predicted that France was due for more youth riots. Somebody give him a prize:  French riot police firing teargas and plastic bullets have struggled to contain three nights of rioting and arson by youths on suburban estates in the Loire, amid protests over the death of ...

583748_090710_frenchriots5.jpg
583748_090710_frenchriots5.jpg

Last November, Sudhir Venkatesh over at the Freakonomics blog predicted that France was due for more youth riots. Somebody give him a prize: 

French riot police firing teargas and plastic bullets have struggled to contain three nights of rioting and arson by youths on suburban estates in the Loire, amid protests over the death of a 21-year-old in police custody.

Last November, Sudhir Venkatesh over at the Freakonomics blog predicted that France was due for more youth riots. Somebody give him a prize: 

French riot police firing teargas and plastic bullets have struggled to contain three nights of rioting and arson by youths on suburban estates in the Loire, amid protests over the death of a 21-year-old in police custody.

High-rises in Firminy, a small town bordering countryside on the outskirts of Saint-Étienne, saw running battles between police and youths in the early hours of this morning after Mohamed Benmouna, a local supermarket cashier, was taken from his police cell in a coma and died in hospital.

Benmouna, who had been arrested on extortion charges, died on Wednesday. Police said he attempted to hang himself in his cell and fell into a coma. His Algerian family, sceptical of the official story, have filed a lawsuit to establish the circumstances of his death and whether police violence was covered up[…]

For three nights, youths have taken to the streets of Firminy to riot over the death, burning local shops, torching dozens of cars and stoning police, despite repeated pleas for calm from the family. Last night the family and 200 locals staged a peaceful sit-down protest outside their block of flats. But later groups of youths began torching buildings and cars and stoning police. The local bakers, chemist, tobacconist and hairdressing salon were razed. Two hundred riot police were brought in to control rioters with teargas and plastic bullets. Six arrests were made.

As The Guardian says in the article, the riots are merely the latest clash in a long-running fight between urban minorities and the French police. Numerous reports in the last year have shown the police force using ethnic profiling and human rights violations against minorities, and racial problems are not just limited to law enforcement, either. As NPR noted in January,

Today, the French political, academic and media establishments are lily-white. In France, it is illegal to gather data according to race and ethnicity, so it’s impossible to measure the minority population’s exact size. It is estimated at between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total 63 million.

There are black parliamentarians from overseas territories, but only one from continental France and hardly any blacks or people of Arab origin among 36,000 mayors.

There are no minorities among the military brass, in the foreign service or judiciary.”

It’s a long walk backwards from when France was a haven for African-Americans.

FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

James Downie is an editorial researcher at FP.

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