Riot-prone France

ByElsa Sc S

Doing her graduation from LUMS & a keen researcher


July 28, 2023

Riot-Prone France

Elsa Sc S talks about the
growing impatience in France

Riot-Prone France – The tendency of violent protestation in France is growing with time as pointed out by its frequency. The recent spate of violent protests in France emphasised yet again that there is something dysfunctional about the pattern of governance in the country that continues to destablise the republic. The week-long rioting seriously disrupted businesses in the country and they are now grappling with the fallout. The riots have already caused more than €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of damage as protesters attacked nearly 400 bank branches and 500 corner shops with estimates putting the total number of looted stores at 1,000. Though the government has vowed to support the businesses but the damage to business confidence may take a long time to come back. And the situation is still combustible as a man arrested in Paris during a memorial rally for his brother, who had died in police custody seven years ago, has been released from hospital amid calls for more protests. The calls came with France still on edge after the police killing of a teen near Paris sparked the worst rioting in the country since 2005. A joint statement by left-leaning associations, unions, and political parties had called for a rally in front of a central Paris police station to demand that he and another person detained with him be released. At least 20 people including two lawmakers were seen outside the station.

The shooting of a 17-year old youngster of Algerian roots has put France on edge as the atrocity has rekindled long pent-up frustrations and accusations of systemic racism among France’s security forces. More than 3,700 people were taken into police custody in connection with the protests since Nahel’s death, including at least 1,160 minors and the situation is still very tense. The reports that French navy is investigating claims that masked, off-duty marines tackled rioters in the western city of Lorient, home to a major military base, during national unrest has caused a negative effect on the situation. It is also viewed with concern that in an interview a 25-year-old man who said he was a member of the armed forces and intervened to support the police along with about 30 colleagues so as to not leave the country to burn. These reports have made policy makers to worry about the impact of the incident on the prevailing situation.

Intriguing reports point out that it wasn’t president Macron who brought six days of rioting in France to an end nor the presence of 45,000 police and gendarmes on the streets that persuaded the rioters, arsonists, vandals and looters to stand down. Instead, it seems that it was the drug gangs who decided enough is enough. Having so many boys in blue patrolling the streets was bad for business and so gang leaders exerted their influence and ordered the young hoodlums back to their bedrooms. That, at least, was the news broken to Macron when he dropped by a police station in the 17th arrondissement of Paris. Meeting them Macron asked his worn-out police officers that whom did the rioting kids listen to and the response was that they listened to the drug dealers. It was a brutal reality check for Macron particularly when it was widely picked up by the French press.

Other police officers painted a similar picture, though they also attributed the restoration of calm to their dedication of their fellow men and women. But were it not for the dealers – by which they mean the drug gangs which control many of the banlieues (suburbs) – there would still be trouble on the streets. It was added that dealers told the rioters to stop the violence so that they could resume drug dealing as with such a heavy police presence in city centres it had become impossible for the gangs to sell their product and so the drug lords flexed their muscles. And their muscles are considerable. In Marseille alone this year, 23 have been killed in drug-related shootings and the violence is spreading across France. It would be foolhardy to defy these gangs.

It is pointed out that the situation provided an opportunity to the drug gangs to indicate their power and influence. It wasn’t lost on the French media that while the city centre of Marseille suffered serious pillaging during the riots, the housing estates to the north were relatively calm. This is where the drug gangs are based. It also goes some way to perhaps explaining why Marseille – the capital of France’s drug trade which is a €3 billion (£2.6 billion) industry – has avoided any significant Islamist outrage, despite its large Muslim population. A magistrate in Marseille said that there is a form of social contract between the police and the drug lords. There is no institutionalised lack of respect for the police and the justice system and in return the police turns a blind eye to the activities of the drug gangs, such as the existence of drug dealing points in close proximity to police stations. The Weekender


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