Saturday, November 5th, 2005

Paris Is Burning

Deputy mayor of Aulnay Franck Cannarozzo said, “Rather than playing on their Playstations, they attack the police.”

It’s the 10th day of rioting in the poor suburbs of Paris in what appears to be shaping up as a fight between second- and third-generation French Africans and the hard-line interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Earlier this year Sarkozy promised an all-out “war without mercy” on the residents of these areas, and now the rioting has spread beyond the capital to other areas across the country. These are the biggest race riots Europe has seen in decades.

Some context for those unfamiliar with the French way of housing poor people: substitute “inner-city” for “suburb”, and think “housing projects” instead of “subdivisions. These are areas of concentrated poverty created decades ago when French sought to push working class folks out of the city’s core toward the industrial jobs on its outskirts. The idea was not unlike Robert Moses’ urban renewal plans to clear Manhattan of the poor by shuttling them to the Bronx and Brooklyn. Of course, deindustrialization and white flight have since been the rule, and poor African immigrants replaced working-class Europeans in the projects.

Bomb the suburbs, indeed.

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