Night after night it just gets worse. Now the riots have claimed their first life. France is suffering its most serious unrest in decades – unrest many say calls into question the nation’s model of integration. The interior minister for one is urging a re-think. “I remain convinced that the problems we have in the suburbs have been going on for 30 to 40 years,” Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters.
“They do not reflect a division between left and right. “They are a very serious national problem to which we need to tailor solutions through discussion.” Accused by some of stoking passions by calling troublemakers “scum”, Sarkozy has been meeting community leaders in efforts to halt the riots, sparked by frustration among ethnic minorities over racism, unemployment and their treatment by the police.
Tonight the prime minister will go on national television to explain his plans for ending the crisis. The police union Action Police CFTC is using the term “civil war” to describe the relentless wave of violence sweeping across France. Sunday night was the most destructive yet, with over 1,400 cars torched – most of them outside Paris. Churches, schools, businesses and police stations were also attacked.
The most serious incident took place south of the capital where around 200 youths ambushed police with guns, rocks and petrol bombs. Two officers were seriously hurt by pellets shot into their neck and legs. Meanwhile, a man beaten in a riot-hit suburb last week died in hospital. The 60-year-old had been in a coma since being attacked. One Paris mayor has now declared a curfew after 10pm in parts of his suburb.