Within a week the riots that started in Clichy-sous-Bois as a result of the deaths of Ziad and Banou have spread to other suburbs around Paris, and now throughout the country. This is the unavoidable result of five years of Sarko-show [a reference to Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy], eight years of security legislation, and thirty years of social decline.
Ziad and Banou died of electrical burns in a power sub-station, and a third youth is in serious condition. They thought they were being chased by the police. Will we ever know whether this was the case, whether the police are guilty of non-assistance of persons in danger?
Whatever the exact details of how these two teenagers died, their death was the spark. Young people in the suburbs already hated the State which for years has only appeared as police, courts, and (increasingly) prisons.
People in working class neighbourhoods live in constant fear, both for themselves and for their children. They are afraid of humiliating identity checks, arbitrary arrests, unpunished police violence, and spurious convictions for “outrage and rebellion,” all in order to meet some police quota. Even recent official reports have called attention to this increasing lawlessness on the part of the police.
And what can one say about provocations of the Minister of the Interior, and even worst about the policy which sees the suburbs as territory that needs to be reconquered, all of which increasingly resembles colonial and military “peacekeeping.”
And so yes, we are sorry that this violence – this answer to the illegitimate violence of those in power – is so often paradoxically directed against the very people who are forced to live in these neighbourhoods, who already have to deal with State and ruling class violence. The logic of this spontaneous rebellion is somewhat understood by the population, but its legitimacy is hurt by the destruction of cars, schools and buses.
But at the same time, we must remember how the State responds when these young people and their families do choose other methods, such as filing complaints against the police which hardly ever result in convictions (remember the work of the Bouge qui Bouge group in Dammarie-les-Lys*). Or the Arabs’ march in 1980, which was broken by the Socialists who were in power at the time and recuperated by SOS Racism.
We support the rebellion against injustice, the sense of mass solidarity, the elements of political awareness amongst most young people. As such, we understand and are in solidarity with both the necessity and the reasons behind the direct action now taking place throughout the working class areas.
This week or riots expresses the hopelessness of the most marginalized section of a generation with no future. Yet it should also be seen as being connected to the government’s strategy of tension and current repression of the social movements (transportation, postal workers, students, anti-GMO activists…) All of these struggles bear witness to the same social insecurity.
We are not going to demand a return to “community policing” or building new sports centers so that young people can work out their frustrations in silence. Does anyone seriously believe that this will solve the social tension caused by the political and social violence of those in power?
We are not even going to demand that the Minister of the Interior resign, as has a section of the left. This is a side-issue, a politician’s issue, and it is scandalous when we remember that the Plural Left  also passed security legislation and even today has not broken with the dominant liberal-security model.**
There are certain to be more explosions of anger unless there is a redistribution of work and wealth, all the more certainly so if social regression, inequality, racism and marginalization continue unchecked.
“Prevention,” religious recuperation and repression will all be useless. Only justice and social and economic equality can solve things.
Federal secretariat of Alternative libertaire,
November 5th 2005
(*) Alternative libertaire n°110, septembre 2002 : “Dammarie-les-Lys,
Cité en deuil, cité en résistance” (to view the article in French, click here) [translators note: this 2002 article details an association against police abuse in the suburb of Dammarie-les-Lys, a group which came about specifically following the deaths of two men, one during a police chase and one shot in the head by the police]
(**) For instance, in the National Assembly on July 16th 2002 the [Socialist] deputy Julien Dray addressed the Minister of the Interior, who was at the time implementing a whole series of repressive laws. Dray said: “Sociey […] has no solution other than repression […] For the good of our country, I can only wish you success […] Your plan is in many ways in line with the strategy prepared by the previous [“Plural Left”] government.”
 Translators note: The “Plural Left” (later renamed “United Left”) formed the government in France between 1997 and 2002. It was a Socialist Party government with ministers from four smaller left parties: the Communist Party, the Greens, the MDC, and the Left Radicals.
Please note that the above text about the past week’s riots in Clichy-Sous-Bois comes from the anarchist group Alternative libertaire in France and 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.
Or see on my blog:
- Clichy-sous-bois: Youth Accuse the Police (Afrik, October 30th 2005)
- The Clichy Rebellion : Does it show the need for self-defense, or for people’s war? (PCMLM, October 2005)
- Riots Against Racism: Paris is Burning (Novmber 3rd 2005)
- Zero Tolerance in Clichy-sous-Bois (November 3rd 2005)
- State Violence in Clichy-sous-Bois: An Eyewitness Account (November 3rd 2005)
- The far left should talk about what’s going on in Clichy (PCMLM, November 2005)
- Should We Support the Popular Rebellion or Oppose It With Talk of “Islamicization” and “Disorder”? (PCMLM, November 2005)
- Communique from ATTAC Bethune (November 6th 2005)
Categories: anarchism, clichy-sous-bois, france, riot, social-democracy