On Thursday night, youths set fire to cars and stoned police in the suburbs of Paris. Police and civilians were injured. In the past few days, three buses have also been torched in the capital city and one in Lyon. In one incident, an assailant held a pistol to the drivers head, while others forced passengers off the bus.
Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to severely punish those responsible for the latest attacks and has stepped up the police presence in sensitive areas: “I’ve decided to mobilise all mobile forces at our disposition in the security services,” he said, “to protect those who use public transport.”
Last year’s riots raged through multi-ethnic sink estates, like this one, in suburbs across France. Observers pointed to poverty and discrimination as the underlying causes. Despite an influx of funds and promises since then, some say little has changed.
“Of course there were problems before,” activist Jamal Ait Tagadrit says. “They’re sending sociologists and psychiatrists to the area, but that has to stop. The society is ill, it’s true, but the root cause here is discrimination. We have to fight against it. It’s the absolute priority.”
Last year saw clashes between youths from suburbs like this one and police.. with arson attacks on thousands of cars and hundreds of buildings. The Interior Minister has ordered police to be on maximum alert to prevent a repeat of the violence.