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Conservatively liberal, moderately well-educated, and highly opinionated...

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Paris Riots: Parallels

Depending upon which source one reads this morning, the rioting outside of Paris has either “peaked” and was better last night, or the riots have spread beyond the original Parisian suburbs, signaling a potential worsening of the problems. The AP article (courtesy of the Washington Post) sounds soothing:

"French Official: Worst Violence Is Over"

A wave of arson attacks in Paris' restive suburbs punctured what authorities said Friday was otherwise a first relative night of calm after a week of clashes between angry youths and riot police

CNN, on the other hand, has this:

"Fiery riots spread beyond Paris"

Although the unrest Thursday and early Friday was less intense than in previous nights, the disturbances spread outside the Paris region for the first time.

Clearly, there are a couple ways to interpret things this morning. Either way, the situation is still very tense in France, and the authorities are not sure how to solve the problems.

My sympathies lie with the ordinary people who live in these towns, but are not part of the unrest. It sounds very much like the situation faced by residents in the poorer, urban areas of New Orleans, who have been victims of similar gangs and violence in their own neighborhoods for years. As I wrote in September:

[(The poor)] have indeed been locked into a cycle. What is not getting out there somehow is that communities […] are not just suffering from urban poverty. Their situation has been radically exacerbated by the unbelievably violent gangs and thugs holding them hostage.
This is not a race issue. This is a violent sub-culture gone mad. […]The families, elderly, and children in these neighborhoods were already living a nightmare.

I think Mr. Sarkozy, in spite of his poor choice of words in a fragile situation, is correct in some of his assessments. The poor (sub)urban neighborhoods in Paris, like New Orleans, are at the mercy of gangs and “thugs”. I wish them better luck than we’ve had with the problems.