Civil Mayhem Rocks France for 12th Night
Civil Mayhem Rocks France for 12th Night
By JOCELYN GECKER, Associated Press Writer 26 minutes
PARIS - France will impose curfews under a
state-of-emergency law and call up police reservists
to stop rioting that has spread out of Paris' suburbs
and into nearly 300 cities and towns across the
country, the prime minister said Monday, calling a
return to order "our No. 1 responsibility."
The tough new measures came as France's worst civil
unrest in decades entered a 12th night, with rioters
in the southern city of Toulouse setting fire to a bus
after sundown after ordering passengers off, and
elsewhere pelting police with gasoline bombs and rocks
and torching a nursery school.
Outside the capital in Sevran, a junior high school
was set ablaze, while in another Paris suburb,
Vitry-sur-Seine, youths threw gasoline bombs at a
hospital, police said. No one was injured. Earlier, a
61-year-old retired auto worker died of wounds from an
attack last week, the first death in the violence.
Asked on TF1 television whether the army should be
brought in, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said,
"We are not at that point."
But "at each step, we will take the necessary measures
to re-establish order very quickly throughout France,"
he said. "That is our prime duty: ensuring everyone's
The recourse to curfews followed the worst overnight
violence so far, and foreign governments warned their
citizens to be careful in France. Apparent copycat
attacks took place outside France, with five cars
torched outside the main train station in Brussels,
Belgium. German police were investigating the burning
of five cars in Berlin.
National police spokesman Patrick Hamon said there was
a "considerable decrease" in the number of incidents
overnight into Tuesday in the Paris region.
Nationwide vandals burned 814 cars overnight compared
to 1,400 vehicles a night earlier, according to
national police figures. A total of 143 people were
arrested down from 395 the night before.
The violence started Oct. 27 among youths in a
northeastern Paris suburb angry over the accidental
deaths of two teenagers but has grown into a
The mayhem is forcing France to confront anger
building for decades in neglected suburbs and among
the French-born children of Arab and black African
immigrants. The teenagers whose deaths sparked the
rioting were of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent. They
were electrocuted as they hid from police in a power
substation, apparently thinking they were being
President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more
conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters
would be caught and punished, acknowledged in a
meeting Monday with Latvian President Vaira
Vike-Freiberga that France has not integrated
immigrant youths, she said.
Chirac deplored the "ghettoization of youths of
African or North African origin" and recognized "the
incapacity of French society to fully accept them,"
France "has not done everything possible for these
youths, supported them so they feel understood, heard
and respected," Chirac added, noting that unemployment
runs as high as 40 percent in some suburbs, four times
the national rate, according to Vike-Freiberga.
In violence Monday, vandals burned churches, schools
and businesses, and injured 36 police officers in
clashes around the country, setting a new high for
arson and violence, said France's national police
chief, Michel Gaudin.
"This spread, with a sort of shock wave spreading
across the country, shows up in the number of towns
affected," Gaudin said.
In terms of material destruction, the unrest is
France's worst since World War II and never has
rioting struck so many different French cities
simultaneously, said security expert Sebastian Roche,
a director of research at the state-funded National
Center for Scientific Research.
Villepin said curfews will be imposed under a 1955 law
that allows the declaring of a state of emergency in
parts or all of France. The law was passed to curb
unrest in Algeria during the war that led to its
He said 1,500 reservists were being called up to
reinforce the 8,000 police and gendarmes already
deployed. The Cabinet will meet Tuesday to authorize
curfews "wherever it is necessary," he said.
"The multiplying acts of destruction, the destruction
of schools and sports centers, thousands of cars set
on fire, all of this is unacceptable and inexcusable,"
he said. "To all in France who are watching me, who
are disturbed by this, who are shocked, who want to
see a return to normalcy, a return to security, the
state's response I say it tonight forcefully will
be firm and just."
Villepin said "organized criminal networks" are
backing the violence and youths taking part are
treating it as a "game," trying to outdo each other.
He did not rule out the possibility that radical
Islamists are involved, saying: "That element must not
be neglected." France's community of Muslims, at some
5 million, is western Europe's largest.
Local government officials will be able to impose
curfews "if they think it will be useful to permit a
return to calm and ensure the protection of residents.
That is our No. 1 responsibility," the prime minister
A Socialist opposition leader, Francois Hollande, said
his party would closely watch to make sure the curfew
law is applied properly.
"This law cannot be applied everywhere, and it cannot
be long-lasting," Hollande said. He said Villepin
should have put more emphasis on improving life in
tough neighborhoods and said the premier's proposals
Villepin said he wanted to speed up a $35.5 billion
urban redevelopment plan, triple the number of merit
scholarships for talented students and offer jobs,
training or internships to disadvantaged young people.
"We must offer them hope and a future," he said.
But nearly 600 people were in custody Monday night,
and fast-track trials were being used to punish
France's biggest Muslim fundamentalist organization,
the Union for Islamic Organizations of France, issued
a religious decree against the violence. It prohibited
all those "who seek divine grace from taking part in
any action that blindly strikes private or public
property or can harm others."
The first fatality was identified as 61-year-old
Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec. He was trying to extinguish
a trash can fire Friday at his housing project in the
northeastern Paris suburb of Stains when an attacker
caught him by surprise and beat him into a coma,
"They have to stop this stupidity," his widow, Nicole,
told Associated Press Television News of the rioting.
"It's going nowhere."
Associated Press Writers John Leicester, Angela Doland
and D'Arcy Doran contributed to this report from Paris.