Paris is BurningThunder Bay 29 Nov 2005 05:37 GMT
The French government has imposed emergency measures on 38 cities in an effort to curb the insurrection that has rocked France for nearly two weeks while spreading to other European cities. The decree, declaring a 12-day state of emergency, will allow police to impose curfews, place people under house arrest, and ban or limit movement and assembly. The decree dates back to France's colonial war in Algeria in 1955.
The nationwide insurrection was triggered by the accidental deaths of two youths of North African descent. The heavy handed reaction by French authorities to a peaceful march protesting the deaths of the two teenagers in the neighbourhood of Clichy-Sous-Bois only increased tensions, causing violence to erupt in the suburbs of Paris and later throughout France. French Interior Minister (and presidential hopeful) Nicolas Sarkozy made a bad situation worse by labelling those involved in the uprising "scum." Insurrectionary youth have called for Sarkozy's resignation.
The rioters are mostly poor and working-class youths of North African descent, with participation from some Portuguese and French youth. Suburbs in France are generally areas made up of cheap housing projects with notoriously high unemployment rates, 20-40 percent in some places. Firebombings, rioting, and torched cars are a routine occurence in these areas, so routine that they rarely get mentioned in the press unless they are on a very large scale.
Some French anarchist groups have issued declarations condeming police and state oppression. Tension is also mounting on the labour front, where French transport unions are planning a nationwide rail strike to protest against privatisation, anti-union laws, low wages and attacks on pensions.
France has not experienced this level of civil unrest since the events of May 1968, when a student rebellion and a general strike of over 10 million workers nearly toppled the French government.