Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Explosion of Anger That Demands Justice!


Declaration from the Africa Collective and the Autonomous Immigration Movement, November 6th 2005

One after another, across the country the popular neighbourhoods are burning! It was set off by the death of two teenagers who “were running from the police.” And then there was not a word of compassion for the victims, there were “two police grenades thrown into a mosque” and the insulting talk of “trash that needs to be cleaned with Karcher” from Sarkozy, the Minister of the Interior.

From then on there has been an explosion of anger that has destroyed cars, buses, warehouses, businesses, schools, etc. Less widely reported are stories like the following: “They (the police) entered the building, broke down the neighbours’ door, and beat them,” says Salah, 27 years old and still shaken. “They were chasing them and they knocked on our door and my mother answered. She’s now at the hospital.” In the background the young man’s sister was crying. As night fell the CRS [riot cops] were beginning to withdraw but the residents’ anger was not subsiding. “They broke down our door, it is all destroyed,” sobbed a young woman. “Hey,” calls out a young man from his car, “tell them it’s Sarko [Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy] who is the pyromaniac. And this is a tinderbox.” (Agence France Presse)

Remember that dozens of young people, from Manoka to Riad, have fallen victim to “police errors” [the term routinely used whenever the police kill anyone in France] which are swept away with “suspended” sentences and talk that they live in “lawless” areas that all too often call for “lawlessness” on the part of certain police officers, etc.

They have names : Nicolas, Karim, Warren, Christophe, Mamadou, Jennifer, Astou, Virginie, Malika, etc. They are normally between 14 and 25 years old. Some of them are known to the courts, others are not. The angry young people are the same ones who took to the streets by thousands, by millions, on April 21st 2002 to “Stop Le Pen” at the second round of presidential elections. The angry young people are the same ones who went on strike against the FILLON counter-reform. The angry young people are the same ones who overwhelmingly voted NO in the May 29th referendum. The young people just like the adults are victims of the neo-liberal and pro-business policies put in place by one government after another. When the young people have acted in this way like citizens they have run up against the neo-liberal political blindness of the government that uses “security as a political strategy to stay in power.”

Sarkozy says clearly that “this government has had the right strategy for the past four years.” (Le Monde 6/7/11/05) But “right for who”? Sarkozy, who boasts that he has “significantly reduced insecurity,” has within days, by his own irresponsible behaviour, exponentially increased the level destruction.

Sarkozy does not care about the 30-40% of people out of work, the looting of public services in the popular neighbourhoods, the deterioration of housing, the discrimination against young people and immigrants, etc. He has nothing to say about these social realities, which are intolerable for values, republican order and social peace.

An arrogant government in the image of Sarkozy laughs at the people’s wishes, the demands of strikers and social struggles, and this leads to counter-productive actions and social divisions for some rebellious young people, to such a point that it becomes suspicious.

This contempt on the part of the government and bosses has led the sailors of the SNCM to take a boat, which had to be taken back by force by the GIGN commandos. On more than one occasion, this Sarkozien contempt pushed the undocumented immigrants to put their lives in danger by long hunger strikes to obtain a legal existence. In his presidential pretentions Sarkozy reminds us more and more of how [former Socialist President] Mitterand made political and media use of [National Front leader] Le Pen, a trick which allowed him to stay in power for fourteen years.

Sarkozy has indeed pushed Le Pen and [far right Catholic politician] De Villiers out of the headlines, but has also become a foil, making a “moderate right” look better than a “delinquent left.” How else can one explain the government’s united stand and its firm refusal of the young people’s clear demand that “Sarkozy does not respect us, he should go.”

The call for “curfews” to be imposed on our neighbourhoods, our young people, our children, brothers and sisters of all origins, of all cultures and all nationalities… this is another example of this horrible contempt and brinksmanship of this government that is unable to deal with the consequences of this “security” trap that it has used time and time again to win over that minority of National Front voters.

[Prime Minister] De Villepin talks about “firmness and justice,” our answer is “justice and equality.”

Written in Lille on November 6th 2005.

Please note that the above text about the past 12 days riots in France comes from the Mouvement Autonome de l’Immigration and the Collective Afrique in France and was translated by yours truly. I have a “fast and loose” translation philosophy, meaning that when there is a choice between readability and the original phraseology i tend to favour the former, provided that the meaning stays the same. The original document can be seen in French.

Please also note that i am translating this as i have not been able to find any radical accounts of the riots or the police racism that provoked them in English… i do not necessarily agree with the author’s point of view, nor do they necessarily agree with mine. Si quelqu’un a un meilleur texte à suggérer, svp envoyez-moi le!

For background to the riots, including a timeline, check out the Wikipedia entry.

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