In an interview with a French journalist last week I made the point that the French police live in constant fear of a French “al Durah” — with a “youth” killed by the police, even as a mistake, they can end up not just with rioting, but with suicide bombing. That’s why when the rioting happens, the police are extremely reluctant to suppress the violence. The first part of that prediction just came true in Paris where two boys died when their moped smashed into a police car and it led to immediate rioting. Note that the police are nowhere to be seen.
Boys’ moped deaths ignite riot in Paris suburb
By Peter Allen in Paris
Last Updated: 1:44am GMT 26/11/2007
Rioting in Villiers-le-Bel (from Le Monde)
Rioting broke in one of Paris’s tinder box suburban housing estates last night after two young boys were killed when their moped collided with a police car.
Molotov cocktails were thrown, and cars and plastic bins set on fire following the tragedy in Tolinette, a notoriously crime-ridden district of Villiers-le-Bel, some 20 miles north of the centre of the French capital.
One police station was set alight and another, in a neighbouring suburb, was ransacked after youths threw cocktails, and set bins alight and upturned cars.
Officials said seven police and one firefighter had were injured and there were fears the violence, which spread to the neighbouring town of Arnouville-les-Gonesse, could also take hold in other poor, suburban enclaves.
The boys who died were said by locals to be “aged between 12 and 13”.
In other words, the age of Muhammad al Durah. Except that they’re 15 and 16. One of their uncles, speaks of his nephew as 15 in an interview with Le Parisien as reported by Nidra Poller
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.
Police insisted that their car had not been chasing the boys, and that the officer driving suffered facial injuries in the incident, which happened soon after dusk.
But the violence had grim echoes of the disturbances which followed the electrocution of two youths in a sub-station as they fled police in the nearby suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in late 2005. It directly led to two months of serious rioting across France, with a state of emergency being declared.
After last night’s deaths, residents in Tolinette said cars were being burnt out, with police fleeing the scene.
Police fleeing the scene. No wonder they’re called “the lost territories of the Republic.”
One local, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “Around 100 rioters have burn at least two cars, but the forces of law and order are nowhere to be seen.
“There were four police cars here, but they’ve retreated. They were charged by the rioters. Some rioters are climbing up to electric cables to try and break them and put the whole district into darkness.
“The kids who died were only aged between 12 and 13. We’re all trying to get the rioters to calm down, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with the deaths of a couple of kids, and when the police are involved.”
Rumors have the power of “reality.” It turns out the teenagers were not wearing helmets (the “mini-motocross” they were riding was “astonishingly intact“). So we have a typical, almost banal tale of two imprudent youths, turned into an excuse to riot.
A police spokesman later confirmed the boys’ deaths, saying that next of kin would be informed before they could be named.
He confirmed that, as well as the police driver, a superintendent had been badly injured as he tried to put out fires started by youths in rubbish bins.
The officer also confirmed that Molotov cocktails – makeshift bombs made of bottles, petrol and an old rag for a fuse – had also been used.
“The situation is extremely tense – we are trying to contain the trouble,” the spokesman added.
The trouble in 2005 was largely blamed on immigrant youths living in suburban housing projects who complained about discrimination and lack of employment opportunities.
Nicolas Sarkozy, who is now president, built up a ruthless reputation as Interior Minister for using tough policing and longer prison sentences to crack down on the trouble.