The Hell of Seine-Saint-Denis
For decades in the United States we have watched our great cities turn into hell-holes. In a few cases, such as New York City, serious attempts have been made to turn things around, but no American city will ever recapture the past. Even with less crime, the effects of multi-culturalism, family decay and socialized education make life unbearable for those of us who remember how much fun it used to be to walk around town, dine out, go to the theater, and all the things one does in a civilized city. It is really "good-bye to all that", to quote Robert Graves.
Paris has been a city of crime (much of it unreported) for a long time, but the region of Seine-Saint-Denis probably makes the South Bronx look attractive. Three days ago rioting broke out again and continued into the following day. One riot looks very much like another, so I am giving a free adaptation of the Figaro article, rather than an exact translation:
For the second night in a row, gangs of "youth" clashed with police in Montfermeil and Clichy-sous-Bois. About ten cars were torched in these two cities. Around 11:00 p.m. an incendiary device was hurled into a police car causing it to catch fire. The four policemen inside had just enough time to get out, visibly shaken, when the fire erupted. A police helicopter was flying over the area.
Many trash can fires were set, and the police sent to put them out became targets of bottle-throwers.
Four policemen were slightly injured when they attempted to stop those who were throwing rocks at the police station on rue d'Utrillo in Montfermeil.
Among those detained for stone-throwing at the Bobigny police station was Muhittin Altun. He was the young man seriouly burned in an electrical transformer on October 27, 2005, while his two companions Zyed Bena and Bouna Traore perished. It was this incident that ignited last November's riots. Altun's lawyer Jean-Pierre Mignard claimed the charge of rock-throwing was ridiculous and expressed his conviction that Altun is innocent.
It happened that Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the Gagny police station to address the officers who had been on duty the previous night when the home of the mayor of Montfermeil was attacked by rock-throwers. A few weeks earlier this mayor - Xavier Lemoine, had issued a curfew prohibiting minors from walking around in groups larger than three after 8:00 at night, a measure perceived as "provocative" by the ghetto-dwellers.
Addressing his officers, Sarkozy said: "More than 100 thugs wearing head-coverings and carrying weapons went after you. Their determination was such that it is imposssible to deny the obvious - this was pre-meditated. I will not allow disorder anywhere in the territory of the Republic. You must continue to fight against crime, we'll throw the book at them, because the French people are demanding security, and the thugs must be punished."
It is to be noted that Sarkozy also told his men to be respectful toward the people they questioned and not to use familiar language.
In the end he announced that there would be "measures taken in the coming days that would place the issue of minors before the French public. If so many of them indulge in violence, it's because they know they can get away with it. And impunity is tantamount to complicity", he concluded.
Note: Galliawatch published an article on life in Montfermeil several weeks ago.