The figures say it all. At the height of France’s explosion of urban violence, some 1,400 vehicles were torched one night. Last night that number had fallen to 163. Now on the wane, the unprecedented wave of social unrest dates back to October 27 and the accidental death of two teenagers who, it is claimed, were fleeing police. It quickly spread nationwide as youths angered by racism and unemployment went on the rampage.
Despite the relative lull, France’s lower house of parliament yesterday gave the green light to a three month extension of emergency powers allowing local authorities to impose curfews.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the assembly the country was confronting one of its most acute and complex urban crises. “The suburbs are not another France, the suburbs are not France on television,” he said.
“The suburbs are France as it is, as we have built it and as we have run it for 30 years.” Today the upper house or Senate is set to give its approval to the extension of the emergency measures.
Earlier, the French prime minister made his first visit to a riot-hit area. Dominique de Villepin met residents, teachers and business leaders on an estate near Paris.