New Civilization News: French Riots    
 French Riots16 comments
picture 8 Nov 2005 @ 17:47, by Flemming Funch

A bunch of people have written to ask if we're ok, so I've better write something. I suppose these things always look a little worse when one watch them on TV from far away, and one doesn't quite know what is going on, and which areas are affected.

In case you somehow missed it, riots started in Paris suburbs a couple of weeks ago, after a couple of youths electrocuted themselves by hiding in a power station, thinking the police were after them. And that apparently set off a lot of latent anger in certain immigrant communities. Well, the actual damage seems to mostly have been done by teenagers who grabbed the opportunity to vent a bit. OK, a lot. My daughter's boyfriend is a schoolteacher in one of those suburbs in Paris, and it has been quite a mess, with many inconveniences.

I would have thought it would be very unlikely here in quiet peaceful Toulouse, but no. A bunch of cars were put on fire Sunday, and a bus yesterday. All mainly in the Reynerie and Mirail areas. Which is not far from here, a mile or two, but yet is quite a different area. Mirail is where the main university is, and Reynerie is close by, and they are what generally is considered the bad neighborhoods here. Where many immigrants live in large apartment complexes, where the streets are more dirty, and where there generally is a different vibe than in other areas.

Coming from the U.S. it seems kind of surprising that anybody has anything to riot about here. This is a very extensive wellfare state, where there's all sorts of public programs for helping you out in many ways. Free education and healthcare, social security, employment assistance, financial aid for many different things. OK, it is all very bureaucratic, but it isn't terribly hard to find somebody who actually cares about you.

But then again, there's a lot of unemployment. The French system is very competitive, and one usually needs the right education, the right diploma, the right certification, etc. The French natives bring up their kids to know the ropes, I suppose, and many are still unemployed. But when we're talking about immigrants who don't integrate very well, like, to a considerable degree the large muslim population. 10% of the French population are muslims, mostly from North Africa. So, the problem is then mainly with their kids, who might not really have learned to play well in the French system, so they'll see an even higher unemployment rate, and they live in ghettos and things look grim, I suppose.

So, combined with a right-wing interior minister who's kind of confrontational, often saying something inflammatory on TV, and various social programs that have been cut recently, I guess there's more to be dissatisfied with. Not that it seems like that riot is particularly focused on anything in particular. But the politicians are bending over backwards to try to address what they think might be the matter.

Judging by the sirens and helicopters that just went by headed towards Mirail, there's some kind of trouble tonight too. Or they might possibly just be enforcing a curfew, I don't know.

Here's where I'm missing the live news coverage of L.A. There would be non-stop coverage on most of the channels there. Here there are just the normal scheduled newscasts.

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9 Nov 2005 @ 03:46 by judih : Appreciate the inside info
It's hard to sift through the News to find out the extent of what's going on. When we heard there was a curfew being enforced, that set my mind a-rolling. I hope somehow peace is brought back and the dissatisfaction gets addressed.


9 Nov 2005 @ 04:43 by vibrani : Thanks for the personal up-date, Ming
I think you explained the situation accurately. All the reports I've seen from many sources in Europe have said the same things about the cause and effect. And this is nothing new - been going on for over 20 years in the French "inner cities." Stay safe.  

9 Nov 2005 @ 08:36 by Siavash @ : May I?
hehe, My dad always used to say: "when you tell a lie to yourself enough times, you'll start to believe it".
It all seems very simple when you put it like that, especially with your relaxing tone ;). But is it really? I don't know myself, but my Parisian friend told me couple of weeks ago, about how hippy-like fashions are beginning to spread out which tend to Islamic-fundamentalism. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to emphasize on the already very exaggerated literature on terrorism and Islamic extremism, but it seems like the anger is partly a response to the development of terror vocabulary. This is the conclusion we reached with my friend: Immigrants or French-men cannot (by their social humanistic nature: common in ALL Humans) stay unresponsive to the development of such a literature forever. It doesn't matter of such vocabulary is based on facts or merely on images, the important think is what my dad says: "if you tell yourself enough times, then you'll start to believe in it". So , being far away from Paris, may I say, that the anger is more than dissatisfied people, and racial issues, or may I not?!!  

9 Nov 2005 @ 11:25 by Istvan @ : "Accurate explanation"=BS
Has Ming ewer even attempted to talk to some of these rioters,or attempted to look deeper into the causes? Probably not.
The existence of desenfranchised (socially and economically trashed ) humans almost always perceived as "it has been quite a mess, with many inconveniences".
The minds and treasured conveniences of "stupid white man" and woman, are perhaps too constricted to examine the real causes of events that create pwerlesness and misery by having to live in the dumping grounds of intensely competitive societies,"what generally is considered the bad neighborhoods here. Where many immigrants live in large apartment complexes, where the streets are more dirty, and where there generally is a different vibe than in other areas.",or "But then again, there's a lot of unemployment. The French system is very competitive, and one usually needs the right education, the right diploma, the right certification, etc."
It would be well to research and understand the real causes of social events before making half/quarter witted statements and comments.
There are enough missunderstandings,"missunderestimate"ings on the web, it is missconstructive to add to it.

10 Nov 2005 @ 00:44 by jobrown : Istvan,
you're The Guy of The Day!
Thanks for your Truly Loving Heart,
blended with a drop of 'Normal People' knowledge
and intelligence! "Personal Responsibility"!....
ohhh, my, oh, my! We have it on record now! ; )  

10 Nov 2005 @ 01:58 by jobrown : A time comes
Here are some tidbits from a wonderful Web-site: Definitely worth y/our while!

A time comes
when silence is betrayal.
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The only safe way to overcome an enemy
is to make of the enemy a friend.

We lose our freedoms at the altar of fear.
—Kahlil Gibran

Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense
a theft from those who are hungry and are not fed,
those who are cold and not clothed.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

If only there were evil people somewhere
insidiously committing evil deeds,
and it were necessary only to
separate them from the rest of us
and destroy them.
But the line dividing good and evil
cuts through the heart of every human being.
And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn

There never was a good war or a bad peace.
— Benjamin Franklin

Wars can be prevented just as surely
as they can be provoked,
and we who fail to prevent them
must share in the guilt for the dead.
— General Omar Bradley

I have known war as few men now living know it.
Its very destructiveness on both friend and foe
has rendered it useless as a means
of settling international disputes.
— General Douglas MacArthur

The pioneers of a warless world are the young men
who refuse military service.
— Albert Einstein
(from the book Peacemaking by Conrad G. Brunk)

War is only a cowardly escape from the problem of peace.
—Thomas Mann

When we see God in each other we will be able to live in peace.
—Mother Teresa

The ultimate weakness of violence is that
it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In this world, hate never dispelled hate.
Only love dispels hate.
This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.
—The Buddha

The only enemy is injustice.
The only death is death of the conscience.
— Guru Granth Sahib
(Sikh holy book)

"Terror is in the human heart.
We must remove this from the heart.
Destroying the human heart, both physically
and psychologically, is what we should avoid.
The root of terrorism is misunderstanding, hatred and violence. This root cannot be located by the military.
Bombs and missiles cannot reach it, let alone destroy it.
Only with the practice of calming and looking deeply
can our insight reveal and identify this root.
Only with the practice of deep listening and compassion
can it be transformed and removed.
Darkness cannot be dissipated with more darkness.
More darkness will only make darkness thicker.
Only light can dissipate darkness.
Those of us who have the light should display the light
and offer it so that the world will not sink
into total darkness."
— Thich Nhat Hanh in Shanghai, October 19, 2002

Kids can't see us bombing, and then listen to us
talking about getting guns out of the schools.
How can we tell them to solve problems without violence,
if, in fact, we can't show an ability to solve problems
without violence?
— Representative Barbara Lee

I know there is anger. I feel it myself. But I don't want my son used as a pawn to justify the killing of others. We as a nation should not use the same means as the people who attacked us.
— Oscar Rodriguez,
(whose son died in the attack
on the World Trade Center)

To do evil, a human being must first of all believe
that what he's doing is good...
Ideology — that is what gives devildoing its long-sought
justification and gives the evildoer the necessary
steadfastness and determination.
That is the social theory which helps to make his acts
seem good instead of bad in his own and others' eyes,
so that he won't hear reproaches and curses
but will receive praise and honors.
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn

That there are men in all countries
who get their living by war,
and by keeping up the quarrels of nations,
is as shocking as it is true;
but when those who are concerned
in the government of a country,
make it their study to sow discord,
and cultivate prejudices between nations,
it becomes the more unpardonable.
— Thomas Paine, "The Rights of Man," circa 1792

Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war
in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor,
for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword.
It both emboldens the blood,
just as it narrows the mind.
And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch
and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed,
the leader will have no need
in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
Rather, the citizenry,
infused with fear and blinded by patriotism,
will offer up all of their rights unto the leader
and gladly so.
How do I know?
For this is what I have done.
And I am Caesar.
— Julius Caesar

And, like I said, there's much more on the web-site  

10 Nov 2005 @ 17:42 by ming : Causes of trouble
Well, it is always "easy" to try to explain it from the outside. "It is just those uneducated trouble makers over there, who can't keep their streets clean" or something. It can be hard to fathom what exactly is going on, when one isn't there, and isn't talking with the actual people. Doesn't sound like you smartasses have more of a clue than I do.

Part of the difficulty is that one can't really see what is going on from just the external circumstances. I mean, what goes for a "ghetto" here, isn't like a ghetto in New Delhi or something. People live in apartments and shop in the same kind of supermarkets as I do, and it would all be considered luxury seen from many other places. And the government pays you money, even if you don't have work. Seems like eldorado when seen from other places where you have to work fulltime for $10 per month. Anyway, the way it looks doesn't tell us what's really going on for people.

Back in the L.A. riots, I remember, when driving around in South Central after it was pretty much over, to be struck by how little it looked different from where I lived. I didn't come there much, so I hadn't thought about it. But, I mean, people live in villas, with yards, and there's typically one or two cars in front, and there's the same kind of infrastructure as most other places. That's the slum?!? Coming from Denmark, having lived in much worse places and being quite happy with it, it is surprising. But, again, how it looks doesn't tell us what people go through.

Real causes are more likely under the surface, or happening out of sight. I don't know how the police treat people there. I don't know what kind of trouble they go through, it maybe being impossible to find a job because of where you live, and maybe your ethnic background. A lot of factors might add up to powerlessness. Not just when one or two things are wrong, but when most of them add up to being blocked in every direction, I suppose.  

10 Nov 2005 @ 23:34 by Jean Vincenti @ : France shall overcome...

November 9 2005

Dear Ming,

This letter shall be amongst one of the most unuasual one you would have received in months: mainly because it speaks with genuine facts but also true vision.

I was a bit disapointed how CNN covered the riots in France. It was very much with a big touch of sentationalism which was not needed.

You see, I was born in France and worked in France, the U.K and the USA (East/West Coasts) for the past 25 years.
Doing mainly from LAw, Commerce, Service, Catering even Telecommunications. I even was a Drill Sergeant Instructor too. Add to that promoting the environment and Humanitarian Affairs with the U.K and USA even France since 1991 with a 95% positive results with medias and Governements. Not bad for someone being ONLY 42 years old.
I have been around the block...and NOT just once. I KNOW people very well. I thank God to have that powerful gift that many told me I had.

All this to confirm that, yes, France has got an integration and unemployment problem and it has been for 30 years now, especially from the governement and some French people NOT the majority. BUT two things you must know in order to report on the French situation correctly and as true Americans, accept it as facts because they are per se:

1) The riots were started by under privileged youths because of an accident of two youths having been electrocuted in an electrical station when cops were, altough it has not been confirmed, chasing them. As well, it did fuel the lack of work and respect opportunities felt by the North African and African immigrants...BUT...most of the burning have been doen by young Hooligans which boasted about it underlying that they wanted to destroy and did not care about society (in general) and did not care of working! THEY did boast it on TV5, RTBF, France 2 and TF1. Wow...Amazing no? Those kids are going down in history as misguided souls that just loves to destroy for their ego (ego which, again, they did say clearly that they had by competing between gangs and towns via blogs (now disconnected) in what they could destroy for fame.

Trust me, they are few and they already attract their own people that do not want thugh wars as ennemies..What a shame. Still, our Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin starts to take IMMEDIATE action for bettering that work/helping integration of poor areas: “...Young people who have no work prospects and do not know how to secure an internship or enter a training programme are young people who have no hope and who doubt about our society. They are the population to which I am responding through the emergency plan for employment. Individual support provided through the national unemployment services, the Second Chance Defence system, and the support toward employment contracts are all intended for them. This morning, with the relevant ministers, we looked at the emergency measures, in particular regarding the employment of young people in Seine-Saint-Denis and education. The Government will adopt an action plan before the end of November...” as well as 100.000.000 Euros for Associations etc...
At least, it is a start of solving those problems which we will as, not having been done before, it can only get up and better.

Now...As a reminder with respect!

2) America is AMAZING and will continue to be in Legal, Sports, Entertainment and Business success tecniques as well as Freedom thinking, brilliant sense of humor, the “Can do” and “Dreams can become Reality” attitudes...PBS is also a superb US idea...BUT:

1) The Iraki war (which France knew was not good to do like that) is alwful! America has spent so far: $218,271,898,009 which is outrageous! Can you imagine counting those dollars even by thousands? That would wipe out a big part of your national deficit! That is a fact and it continues to cost:

Irak is not ready for the kind of Freedom you want because THEY fight between factions all the time. Fact...not an opinion...

2) From Johannesburg to kyoto Environmental meetings, the USA refuses to accept environmental responsabilities. You know that the environment is like a cake: take pieces and don’t replace them and it will be gone. t least in France, we have not got , no more, landfills like...Fact...not an opinion...

3) The USA (with Israel) refused to sigh the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions.
148 countries did! Are you telling me that the US is right and they are all wrong? Even in Cosmuc Arithmetics that is not possible. The USA MUST accept other cultures and languages for a fairer econo-politico exchange...Fact..not ..well you know...

4) As integration in the USA: Institutional racism is the theory that aspects of the structure, pervasive attitudes, and established institutions of society disadvantage racial minorities, although not by an overtly discriminatory mechanism. There are several factors that play into institutional racism, including but not limited to: accumulated wealth/benefits from racial groups that have benefited from past discrimination, educational and occupational disadvantages faced by non-native English speakers in the United States, ingrained stereotypical images that still remain in the society (e.g. Black men are likely to be criminals).
The established institutions of society are taking some steps to combat the various claimed structural disadvantages in modern American society, particularly in the case of non-native English speakers or those raised in homes that spoke broken or pidgin English. Several states are attempting to reduce these educational disadvantages by developing a more culturally aware curriculum. For example, the 2005 California 6th grade statewide examination contained the question Patio comes from the Spanish word meaning what?. Including questions such as these provide opportunities for non-native speakers of English to have greater educational access.
Minorities have also been the subject of racism in the mass media through advertising campaigns utilizing references to stereotypes, such as Coon Chicken Inn, and the Taco Bell chihuahua.
Shall I say facts again?

So, you see, the USA even if they are a cool country for many things MUST solve those problems UNACCEPTABLE for a country built by immigrants and that promote freedom. Fact...America can do it...It just takes humility to accept those facts and turn them around with hard

Bashing France will not help as we do not bash them anyway...The facts I gave are from you, not me! the USA can even be better just...Go for it! As you say Rocky style when you want to succeed! The USA can really be even more cool (and the U.K too).

At least France starts on her interior problems of integration now and will succeed in some big noticeable porcentage within the next 4-5 years already as we have to and it will follow France’s example of non war and “Vive la différence” which we, normally, want to live by.

Good Luck...
Jean , Los Angeles  

12 Nov 2005 @ 04:04 by ming : France
Well, thank you, Jean for your long letter.

Yes, hopefully something good comes out of it, in terms of more effective programs in those areas. Even if those who did the damage weren't really representative of their communities, but largely were bored teenagers who got some kind of rush out of participating in "destroying everything", as some of them expressed it. Regardless, it makes a lot of people look for what problems might exist that need to be fixed.  

13 Nov 2005 @ 13:01 by istvan @ : WWR1
Perhaps this article may clarify current and future occurences of this sort.Get ready for more. It alredy is spreading to Grece.

Headlines : International
A Night With 'Rioters' Who Feel 'Rage'
Sat, 12 Nov 2005 13:24:11 -0800
These young people say they have “no reference points,” they’re “misunderstood,” “victims of racial discrimination,” “condemned to live in dirty cities,” and “rejected.” They hide neither their gladness nor their “pride” that the riots are spreading everywhere: “There’s no competition between the projects. This is pure solidarity.”
[Posted By ShiftShapers]
By Yves Bordenave and Mustapha Kessous
Republished from InterActivist Info Exchange
Neither bosses nor Islamists seem to be telling them what to do, much less manipulating them.
Abdel, Bilal, Youssef, Ousman, Nadir, and Laurent (their names have been changed) are at the foot of the eleven-story cliff that is the “112” housing project in Aubervilliers (Seine-Saint-Denis). When he joins them, Rachid, dressed in a bulky down jacket, lights a cigarette and sets fire to the refuse bin. “It’s too bad, but we have to,” says Nadir. For ten days, the scenario has been repeating itself on a daily basis. The small gang of this public housing project on the rue Hélène Cohennec, where more than a thousand people live, want to “break everything.” Cars, warehouses, gymnasiums, are targets of this anger that does not answer to any marching orders or organization.
“If one day we get organized, we’ll have hand grenades, bombs, kalashnikovs… We’ll say meet at the Bastille and it’ll be war,” they warn. Neither bosses nor Islamists seem to be telling them what to do, much less manipulating them.

For the time being, the 112 gang is acting alone in its neighborhood: the “organization” is more like an improvised party than a warlike undertaking. “Everybody contributes something,” Abdel explains.
“We feel rebellion more than hatred,” says Youssef, the oldest of the band. Twenty-five, he says he’s “calmed down” since he became engaged, though. He still feels “rage,” though. It’s especially aimed at Nicolas Sarkozy and his “warlike” vocabulary: “Since we’re scum, we’re going to give that raciest something to vacuum up. Words hurt worse than blows. Sarko has to resign. We’ll keep going as long as he doesn’t apologize.”
There is, added to this “rage,” the incident of the tear-gas bomb used against the mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois, one week ago. “A blasphemy,” according to Youssef. “Gassing religious people who are praying is something you don’t do. They’re insulting our religion.” The judicial investigation should determine whether the tear-gas bomb was thrown inside the mosque or in front of the entrance. All these young people have stored up “too much rancor” to listen to appeals for calm. “It’s like a dog against a wall, it becomes aggressive. We’re not dogs, but we’re reacting like animals,” says Ousman.
Laurent, 17, the youngest of the band, claims he “torched” a Peugeot 607, a few feet from here, only two hours ago. For them, nothing’s easier. All you need is a glass bottle filled with gasoline and a rag for a fuse, you break a window and throw the cocktail inside: in two minutes the car is on fire, if it doesn’t blow up first.
Why burn these car that usually belong to someone they know? “We have no choice. We’re ready to sacrifice everything since we have nothing,” Bilal says in his own defense. “We even burned a friend’s car. He was furious, but he understood.”
The friend in question is here. He’s 21, works as kitchen helper in a restaurant in Paris’s 15th arrondissement, and doesn’t disagree. He pulls out his cell phone and proudly shows the screen saver: the picture of a police car on fire taken a few months ago during earlier events, after the death of an Aubervilliers youth. “You know, when you’re waving a Molotov cocktail, you say watch out. There are no words for expressing what you feel; you only know how to talk by setting fire.”
No recipe escapes their incendiary quest. Thus, in more home-made fashion, “acid bombs bought at Franprix” and stuffed with aluminum foil, used by kids 13 or 15 years old. “When at that age all you have is rebellion, it’s because there’s a serious problem,” says Abdel, who expresses his “fear of having kids who would be raised in rage.”
8:19 p.m., a fire engine siren sounds. “Here come the cops. We’re out of here,” orders Youssef. The band slips into the foyer. Here, the elevator only goes to two of the eleven stories of the building: the fifth and the tenth.
On the fifth floor, they feel safe from a possible police check. Bilal, 21, knows something about that: “Today, I was stopped two times. The cops put me on the ground while sticking a flash-ball (a handgun that fires rubber bullets) in my face and insulted me.” So he doesn’t understand why the government devotes “millions of euros to equipping the police when they refuse to give a cent to open a youth center.”
Youssef and his gang are not fools. They know how much the violence they are setting loose creates prejudices against them. “We’re not vandals, we’re rioters,” he says in his own defense. “We’re all getting together, so that our rebellion will be heard,” they say. And to express their discontent. “In the band, we’re all out of work, we have nothing more coming to us,” says Nadir, 25. Like the others, he quit school at 16 after failing the electrotechnical BEP [= brevet d’études professionnelles, a vocational diploma]. Since then, all he’s had is odd jobs as a packer, loading pallets. “Anyway, what else is there to do?” he sighs. “For 100 CVs I sent, I got three interviews. Even when I know somebody, I get rejected,” he says bitterly. For them, school did nothing. “That’s why we’re burning them,” says Bilal.
And what if the provocative formulas of Nicolas Sarkozy gave them the occasion they were waiting for? Didn’t they allow them to set free this “rage,” till now kept bottled up? “We’re drowning, and instead of throwing us a buoy, they’re pushing our heads underwater; help us,” they insist. These young people say they have “no reference points,” they’re “misunderstood,” “victims of racial discrimination,” “condemned to live in dirty cities,” and “rejected.” They hide neither their gladness nor their “pride” that the riots are spreading everywhere: “There’s no competition between the projects. This is pure solidarity.”
9:00 p.m. The group goes back outside, at the bottom of the cliff. The firemen have extinguished the refuse bin. Youssef and his friends ask: “What are we waiting for? Let’s go burn something.”
[Ed. Note: Translated by Mark K. Jensen – Web page:]

Posted by ShiftShapers
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15 Nov 2005 @ 12:41 by Istvan @ : Good results acheived for now.

Published on Monday, November 14, 2005 by the Guardian/UK
Riots Are a Class Act - And Often They're the Only Alternative
France now accepts the need for social justice. No petition, peaceful march or letter to an MP could have achieved this
by Gary Younge

'If there is no struggle, there is no progress," said the African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. "Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters ... Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

By the end of last week it looked as though the fortnight of struggle between minority French youth and the police might actually have yielded some progress. Condemning the rioters is easy. They shot at the police, killed an innocent man, trashed businesses, rammed a car into a retirement home, and torched countless cars (given that 400 cars are burned on an average New Year's Eve in France, this was not quite as remarkable as some made out).

But shield your ears from the awful roaring waters for a moment and take a look at the ocean. Those who wondered what French youth had to gain by taking to the streets should ask what they had to lose. Unemployed, socially excluded, harassed by the police and condemned to poor housing, they live on estates that are essentially open prisons. Statistically invisible (it is against the law and republican principle to collect data based on race or ethnicity) and politically unrepresented (mainland France does not have a single non-white MP), their aim has been simply to get their plight acknowledged. And they succeeded.

Even as the French politicians talked tough, the state was suing for peace with the offer of greater social justice. The government unrolled a package of measures that would give career guidance and work placements to all unemployed people under 25 in some of the poorest suburbs; there would be tax breaks for companies who set up on sink estates; a €1,000 (£675) lump sum for jobless people who returned to work as well as €150 a month for a year; 5,000 extra teachers and educational assistants; 10,000 scholarships to encourage academic achievers to stay at school; and 10 boarding schools for those who want to leave their estates to study.

"We need to respond strongly and quickly to the undeniable problems facing many inhabitants of the deprived neighborhoods," said President Chirac. From the man who once said that immigrants had breached the "threshold of tolerance" and were sending French workers "mad" with their "noise and smell" this was progress indeed.

"The impossible becomes probable through struggle," said the African American academic Manning Marable. "And the probable becomes reality."

And the reality is that none of this would have happened without riots. There was no petition these young people could have signed, no peaceful march they could have held, no letter they could have written to their MPs that would have produced these results.

Amid the charred chassis and broken glass there is a vital point of principle to salvage: in certain conditions rioting is not just justified but may also be necessary, and effective. From the poll tax demonstrations to Soweto, history is littered with such cases; what were the French and American revolutions but riots endowed by Enlightenment principles and then blessed by history?

When all non-violent, democratic means of achieving a just end are unavailable, redundant or exhausted, rioting is justifiable. When state agencies charged with protecting communities fail to do so or actually attack them, it may be necessary in self-defense.

After the 1967 riots in American cities, President Johnson set up the Kerner commission. It concluded: "What white Americans have never fully understood - but what the Negro can never forget - is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto. White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it." How else was such a damning indictment of racial discrimination in the US ever going to land on the president's desk?

Following the inner-city riots across Britain in 1981, Lord Scarman argued that "urgent action" was needed to prevent racial disadvantage becoming an "endemic, ineradicable disease threatening the very survival of our society". His conclusions weren't perfect. But the kernel of a message black Britons had been trying to hammer home for decades suddenly took center stage. A few years later Michael Heseltine wrote a report into the disturbances in Toxteth entitled It Takes a Riot.

Rioting should be neither celebrated nor fetishized, because ultimately it is a sign not of strength but weakness. Like a strike, it is often the last and most desperate weapon available to those with the least power. Rioting is a class act. Wealthy people don't do it because either they have the levers of democracy at their disposal, or they can rely on the state or private security firms to do their violent work for them, if need be.

The issue of when and how rioting is effective is more problematic. Riots raise awareness of a situation, but they cannot solve it. For that you need democratic engagement and meaningful negotiation. Most powerful when they stem from a movement, all too often riots are instead the spontaneous, leaderless expression of pent-up frustration void of an agenda or clear demands. Many of these French youths may have had a ball last week, but what they really need is a party - a political organization that will articulate their aspirations.

If Kerner and Scarman are anything to go by, the rioters will not be invited to help write the documents that could shape racial discourse for a generation. Nor are they likely to be the primary beneficiaries.

"During the 80s, everyone was desperate to have a black face in their organization to show the race relations industry that they were allowing black people to get on," says the editor of Race & Class, Ambalavaner Sivanandan. "So the people who made this mobility possible were those who took to the streets. But they did not benefit." The same is true of the black American working class that produced Kerner.

Given these uncertain outcomes, riots carry great risk. The border between political violence and criminality becomes blurred, and legitimate protest risks degrading into impotent displays of hypermasculinity. Violence at that point becomes not the means to even a vague aspiration but the end in itself, and half the story gets missed. We heard little from young minority French women last week, even though they have been the primary target of the state's secular dogma over the hijab.

Finally, violence polarizes. The big winner of the last two weeks may yet prove to be Sarkozy. The presidential-hopeful courted the far-right with his calculated criticisms of the rioters; if he wins he could reverse any gains that may arise. Le Pen also lurks in the wings.

The riots in France run all these risks and yet have still managed to yield a precarious kind of progress. They demand our qualified and critical support.

Power has made its concessions. But how many, for how long and to whom depends on whether those who made the demands take their struggle from the margins to the mainstream: from the street to the corridors of power.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005


17 Nov 2005 @ 18:32 by rayon : To Be Brief
everyone is being terribly polite here, not walking on eggshells, because in the main newspapers here today it is reported that the reason for the riots is because the cultures mostly associated with them are polygamus. No one ever talks about it, and it starts/started somewhere else, where is it still rife and rifer, and still no one ever talks of it. It is a frightening enough factor on its own, in principle it should not be allowed to alter another foreign country's culture just because no one wants to say the words. Sorry.  

30 Nov 2005 @ 10:09 by rayon : At a sober level
at 8 in the morning, going thro the discourse from the top - one point comes to mind:

It is wrong to say nothing would have been done if they had not torched, etc. They could have marched, protested, grouped, just like any other people do in a civilised country. They could have learnt slowly with engagement in the process how to articulate, the emergent key points, etc etc with good intentions.

Does this mean to say that there is no other deeper injustice in the land at this very moment being done to any other single person or groups of people in any way and therefore their aggressive actions are justified? What about people being tortured, what about those being gagged for life unable to speak ever about their situations?? I worked at Amnesty International, in the Spanish American department. My job was to move the names of the people from the Torture list to the Death list.

Does it also mean that the worse the type aggression used, the more serious and real the cause is considered to be, and therefore justifiable?

For this reason, there is international agreement not to accede kidnappers' demands, and encourage similar actions.

What they have received is impressive promises from the government and no doubt some immediate action at ground level will follow through. So whilst I read all the above and take as bona fide, all the obvious experts cleverly and honestly touching upon every angle they perceive as contributory to the riots, yes, it appears there was pleasure in destruction, yes, they did reach boiling point (different temperatures for each substance, depending on specific gravity etc) but this boiling point does not necessarily translate into cause celebre. Therefore, it should be pointed out to the rioters that it is very wrong to take up aggression.  

19 Dec 2014 @ 10:37 by Adelia @ : kRAcZbWmyriHU
iza ma fi logo – shu bi7outo l 3alam profile pic 3a tiettwr ? w 3a shu byi3mlo hyper link bi wordpress..liya7ya l logo wal yaskout el moudara2 !they can be creative  

23 Dec 2014 @ 07:52 by Victoria @ : vUsAEfjnneCEIBu
I cannot tell a lie, that really hepled.  

29 Apr 2016 @ 04:24 by Louisa @ : TvULjkPEOlQyHEG
Thanks for the sentiments on the day. Matt and I decided to &qpt;tskiu&quoo; it this year…Now that you've gone and helped me feel guilty about that, I'll have to rethink next year! Very interesting none-the-less. I love to read your writing!  

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