French rioting appears to abate slowly

Violence across France appeared to abate on Thursday in the first 24 hours of emergency measures aimed at stopping the country’s worst civil unrest in decades. Some cities, including the Riviera resorts of Cannes and Nice, imposed curfews on minors.

The government toughened its stance on Wednesday against rioters, with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy saying local authorities have been told to deport foreigners convicted for involvement.

The violence started on October 27 among youths in the north-eastern Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis angry over the accidental deaths of two teenagers, but grew into a nationwide insurrection of arson and clashes with police.

Arson attacks continued overnight on Wednesday to Thursday in some places as the violence stretched into a 14th night. However, the number of attacks continued to fall.
At least 482 cars were set on fire across the country—compared with a total of 600 for the night before—and 155 people were detained for questioning, police said.

Vandals set 11 cars ablaze and rammed a burning car into a primary school in the southern city of Toulouse, damaging its entrance, the national police said. Another school was set on fire in the eastern city of Belfort.

Vandalism at two power stations caused blackouts in parts of Lyon, France’s second-largest city, police said. Car burnings continued for a fifth night across Belgium, with 15 vehicles torched, but the government stressed that attacks were isolated and could not be compared to widespread rioting across the border in France.

A 12-day state of emergency went into effect on Wednesday. For much of France—including the city of Paris—it had no perceptible effect.

That such extraordinary measures were needed, however, has fuelled national soul-seeking about France’s failure to integrate its African and Muslim minorities—seen as a key reason behind the rioting. Rioters included the French-born children of immigrants from France’s former colonies.

The emergency decree paved the way for possible curfews in Paris, its suburbs and more than 30 other cities and towns nationwide if officials feel they are needed. By Wednesday evening, only a few municipalities and regions imposed them; Paris had not.

In Nice, Cannes and 19 other towns in the Riviera region known as Alpes-Maritimes, including the resort of Antibes, minors were forbidden from being outdoors between 10pm and 5am without adult supervision. Certain bars in Nice and another town were ordered closed during those hours for 10 days.

There have been no direct clashes between youths and police in the Riviera, but unrest that started in the area on Friday had persisted in some towns for four nights.

Arsonists set fire to a warehouse used by Nice-Matin newspaper in the town of Grasse, national police spokesperson Patrick Reydy said. A total of 161 cars have been burned—about half in the Nice area—and nine buildings damaged across the Riviera region.

Sarkozy, who previously inflamed passions by referring to suburban troublemakers as “scum”, said 120 foreigners have been convicted in connection with the violence. He ordered local authorities to expel them.

Far-right leader Jean-Marie le Pen said French nationals of immigrant backgrounds should be stripped of their French citizenship and sent “back to their country of origin” if they committed crimes.—Sapa-AP

Associated Press writers John Leicester and Angela Doland in Paris contributed to this report

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