Rioting Spreads From Paris Across France
November 05, 2005 10:39 AM EST
AUBERVILLIERS, France - Marauding youths torched nearly 900 vehicles, stoned
paramedics and burned a nursery school in a ninth night of violence that
spread from Paris suburbs to towns around France, police said Saturday.
Authorities arrested more than 250 people overnight - a sweep unprecedented
since the unrest began.
For the first time, authorities used a helicopter to chase down youths armed
with gasoline bombs who raced from arson attack to arson attack, national
police spokesman Patrick Hamon said.
The violence, which was concentrated in neighborhoods with large African and
Muslim populations but has since spread, has forced France to address the
simmering anger of its suburbs, where immigrants and their French-born
children live on the margins of society.
With 897 vehicles destroyed by daybreak Saturday, it was the worst one-day
toll since unrest broke out after the Oct. 27 accidental electrocution of
two teenagers who believed police were chasing them. Five hundred cars were
burned a night earlier.
In a particularly malevolent turn, youths in the eastern Paris suburb of
Meaux prevented paramedics from evacuating a sick person from a housing
project, pelting rescuers with rocks and torching the awaiting ambulance, an
Interior Ministry official said.
A nursery school was badly burned in Acheres, west of Paris.
The town had previously escaped the violence, the worst rioting in at least
a decade in France. Some residents demanded that the army be deployed, or
that citizens band together to protect their neighborhoods. At the school
gate, Mayor Alain Outreman tried to calm tempers.
"We are not going to start militias," he said. "You would have to be
Unrest, mainly arson, was reported in the northern city of Lille, in
Toulouse in the southwest and in the Normandy city of Rouen. It was the
second night that troubles spread beyond the difficult Paris suburbs.
In Suresnes, a normally calm town just west of the capital, 44 cars were
burned in a lot.
On Saturday morning, more than 1,000 people took part in a silent march in
one of the worst-hit suburbs, Aulnay-sous-Bois. One banner read: "No to
Police detained 258 people overnight, almost all in the Paris region, and
dozens of them will be prosecuted, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said
after a government crisis meeting.
"Violence penalizes those who live in the toughest conditions," he said.
"Violence is not the solution."
Most attacks have been in towns with low-income housing projects, areas
marked by high unemployment, crime and despair. But in a new development,
gangs have left their heavily policed neighborhoods to attack others with
fewer police, spreading the violence.
Police deployed overnight in smaller, more mobile teams to chase rioters
getting around in cars and on motorcycles, said Hamon, the police spokesman.
There appeared to be no coordination among gangs in different areas, Hamon
said. Within gangs, however, youths communicated by cell phone text messages
or e-mails and warned each other about police, he said.
Anger against police was fanned days ago when a tear gas bomb exploded in a
mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois, north of Paris - the same surburb where the
youths were electrocuted. Youths suspected a police operation, but Prime
Minister Dominique de Villepin met Saturday with the head of the Paris
mosque and denied that police were to blame.
The persistence of the violence prompted the American and Russian
governments to advise citizens visiting Paris to steer clear of the suburbs.
In Torcy, east of the capital, looters set fire to a youth center and a
police station, which were gutted, city hall said. An incendiary device was
tossed at the wall of a synagogue in Pierrefitte, northwest of Paris.
A police officer at the Interior Ministry operations center said bullets
were fired into a vandalized bus in Sarcelles, north of Paris.
Firefighters battled a furious blaze at a carpet warehouse in Aubervilliers,
on the northern edge of Paris.
Associated Press writers John Leicester, Elaine Ganley and Angela Doland in
Paris contributed to this report.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press.