Sunday, November 13, 2005

Police Provocations in Bellecour Place (Lyons)

Saturday, November 12th 2005

NOTE: The prefect has imposed a curfew on minors from 10pm to 6am until Monday, in effect in the eleven municipalities in this department: Lyon, Bron, Givors, Meyzieu, Rillieux-la-Pape, Saint-Fons, Saint-Priest, Vaulx-en-Velin, Vénissieux, Villeurbanne and Villefranche-sur-Saône.


This Saturday November 12th, around 5pm, there were confrontations between police and young people at Bellecour Place [in Lyons]. Rocks and garbage cans versus tear gas. Some shops suffered minor damage. Many businesses had closed earlier than usual. Eleven people were arrested, and nine were kept in custody.

  • According to “Associated Press” : Confrontations took place Saturday afternoon at Bellecour Place in the heart of Lyon, between young people and police who used tear gas, according to the Rhône prefecture.

Eleven people were arrested, and nine kept in custody, according to the prefecture, which also noted that “there was some minor damage done to some businesses.”

The confrontation was over by 6:15pm, according to the prefecture. The police force was redeployed across the entire city of Lyon. The young people had arrived in groups via the metro, according to the prefecture.

Jérémie Paris, a 21-year old who works in the McDonalds in front of Bellecour Place descrtibed how thirty or so young people were sitting on the terrace outside the McDonalds when there was suddenly a cloud of smoke. That’s when everything started. “Chairs were flying” on the terrace. “People were panicking, they took shelter inside the restaurant, and we closed the doors.”

The young man was able to see youths throwing stones at the police, and saw the police beating one young person with their billy clubs. A cartridge, apparently from an air gun, was found close by the restaurant. (extract)

  • An eyewitness account:
What went on at Bellecour Place looked a lot like police provocation. At 4:30pm, Barre street was completely closed off, the metro was closed (how can one arrive by metro if it is closed?). The CRS [riot squad] stayed in a defensive position for over one and a half hours. In a square formation with their shields up, they were facing a crowd coming down des Cordeliers towards de Perrache.

In such a surreal situation, the CRS must have known what would happen. More and more people came to see what was going on. And already we could guess what would happen later.

The police were positioned in such a way so as to raise the level of tension. Apart from Barre street that was cut off to all traffic, it was easy to get around them by taking side streets or crossing the FNAC, which is not the case when there is a real threat and they completely close off Bellecour Place.

They chose two particularly tense points – the metro strations at Bellecour and Cordeliers – which is where people were going to take the metro, only to find them closed. Add to that a few soda pop cans that are thrown somewhat half-heartedly, and some students calling out insults, and you get a mini “riot”.

Some teenagers who were in the area decided to play the tough guys by shouting out “it’s war,” scaring away mothers pushingb their baby carriages. It certainly is easy to make a riot. Luckily there are young people to make us laugh!

  • Another eyewitness said that at about 3pm Barre street was completely closed off to traffic by an army of police. They parked a number of cars with mirrored windows in the area. At that point everything was absolutely calm and nothing out of the ordinary was going on, so nobody could understand why the police were taking up positions like this. Around 5pm, people of different ages approached the police to ask them what was going on; they were shoved and pushed around a little bit by the police. Then at that point the tear gas was fired.

  • Another eyewitness claims to have seen a group of a dozen or so plainclothes officers wearing ski-masks, helmets and flashballs leaving the police ranks of Barre street and running after young people at Bellecour Place, down side streets, scaring the hell out of everyone. This is how several young people came to be violently arrested.

NOTE: On “Soir 3” [a television show] Saturday night, a reporter stated that Sarkozy had said that “the unrest in Lyons in the work of anarchists!” This is not even true, as they were all at the 20 year anniversary party of the Lyon CNT at the time.

Please note that the above text about yesterday’s “riot” in Lyon comes from the website – Lyon’s “alternative information site” – 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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