Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Hip-Hop Generation Protests Sarkozy Election in France

At massive demonstrations by hip-hop generationers turned loose water cannons and fired tear gas yesterday. Sarkozy, you might remember, was the government official whom many African and Arab immigrants blame for creating a hostile environment for youth of color. This anger erupted into the riots of late 2005 when two project youths died in police custody.

CRS riot police charged several hundred anti-Sarkozy protesters on the Place de la Bastille where some had daubed “Sarkozy 2007 = Hitler 1933” on the column in the center of the square. Police tear-gassed protests in the southern cities of Marseille and Toulouse, and there were incidents in Lyon, Lille, Rennes, Bordeaux and Nancy, National Police spokesman Patrick Hamon said by telephone.

…Politicians including Azouz Begag, one of two Muslims in the French government until he quit last month, blamed Sarkozy for raising tensions by referring to youths who stoned his car as “rabble” shortly before the 2005 riots.

Earlier, Sarkozy said he’d clean out neighborhoods with a “Karcher,” a brand of high-pressure hose. Those comments followed policy decisions such as the abolition of community police forces and reinforcement of baton-wielding riot police.

“The worst thing he did was to get rid of community police,” Guy-Serge Pungumbu, 24, a brother of Yves Pungumbo, said. “It means our only contact with police is identity checks or riot police.”

Suburbs Quiet

At the Grande Borne, a housing project south of Paris where police were fired on during the 2005 riots, groups of youth gathered on the streets while vans filled with riot police slowly did their rounds.

Malik Amadu, 20, a semi-professional soccer player drove by, playing a hip hop song about how the suburbs will erupt with Sarkozy as president.

“With Sarkozy it means even more controls, more repression,” he said. “We’ll never be left alone. I hope it will be calm tonight but I can’t guarantee it.”

On Feb. 27, Segolene Royal, the Socialist whom Sarkozy defeated in the second and final round of voting yesterday, laid a wreath to the two boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore, in their home town of Clichy-sous-Bois and met with AC Le Feu, a community group formed after the riots.

Sarkozy, who crisscrossed France in his quest to be president, never campaigned in any of the suburbs that are largely populated with immigrants from North and sub- Saharan Africa. Rivals such as Royal and centrist Francois Bayrou mocked him for never going.

`Violence, Brutality’

“My responsibility today is to launch an alert about the risks of this candidacy and the violence and brutalities that will start in the country, everyone knows it but nobody says anything,” Royal told RTL radio May 4.

Sarkozy “ran a campaign based on the denigration of others,” said Mohamed Chirani, president of Votez Banlieue, a voter-registration drive founded after the riots, in a telephone interview.

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