Saturday, November 12, 2005

[France Riots] Chirac admits poverty fueled riots

From The Detroit Free Press

But French president chastises violence


PARIS -- President Jacques Chirac directly addressed for the first time the inequalities and discrimination that have fueled two weeks of rioting across France, saying Thursday that the country has "undeniable problems" in its poor neighborhoods.

Violence continued to slow under state-of-emergency measures and heavy policing, with far fewer skirmishes and fewer cars burned. And eight police officers were suspended, two of them suspected of beating a man held during the riots.

Chirac had spoken publicly about the unrest only once in a brief address focused on security measures. But on Thursday, he said that once order is restored, France will have to "draw the consequences of this crisis, and do so with a lot of courage and lucidity."

"There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighborhoods around our cities," he said.

"Whatever our origins, we are all the children of the republic, and we can all expect the same rights," Chirac said.

But he also pointed a finger at parents, saying "too many minors" have joined the violence, some "pushed to the fore by their elders."

The crisis has led to questions about France's failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities. Anger about high unemployment and discrimination has fanned frustration among the French-born children of immigrants from former colonies.

One 20-year-old who grew up near Paris said he had stopped looking for a job and joined the rampage.

"Maybe I burnt cars. I know it's not very nice of me, but, to be honest, I am happy that things heated up everywhere to let everybody know that we are sick of it," said Ahmed Zbeul, hanging around a courthouse Thursday to support friends on trial.

In La Courneuve, north of Paris, two cops were suspected of hitting a man taken in for questioning, the Interior Ministry said. The two were suspended along with six others suspected of witnessing the incident Monday. The victim had minor injuries, the ministry said.

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