Published on 14 Aug 2012 by leskinsolving
in AMIENS France Youth jeered and jostled the French interior minister on Tuesday in the city of Amiens, where he met local officials following riots in which police were fired at with buckshot and pelted with missiles.President Francois Hollande said the state would “mobilize all its resources to combat this violence”, which has shaken depressed quarters of major French cities at regular intervals in the past decade.Unrest is often blamed on a combination of poor job prospects, racial discrimination, a widespread sense of alienation from mainstream society and perceived hostile policing.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls was met by a crowd of about 100 young men when he arrived in Amiens to discuss two nights of violence apparently sparked by tension over spot police checks on residents.”Calm down! Calm down!” Valls yelled as the crowd jostled him while he entered the town hall surrounded by bodyguards.Valls said 17 police were hurt in the rioting, some hit by shotgun pellets, others hit by a hail of missiles thrown by around 100 youths who gathered in the city’s northern districts.”Firearms! Can it be considered normal that people turn firearms on police? It’s unacceptable … law and order must be restored,” Valls told a news conference, adding that a minority of people were terrorising the local community.
One officer was in a serious condition, the city’s Socialist Mayor Gilles Demailly
Hollande, who ordered Valls to break off their visit to south-eastern France and travel to Amiens, said not enough money had been put into security in recent years.
“Our priority is security which means that the next budget will include additional resources for the gendarmerie and the police,” he said.
The unrest was the first major law and order test for Hollande’s Socialists following his May election victory over conservative incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy, whose tough policies on crime and immigration some critics said fanned urban unrest.The interior ministry dispatched reinforcements to Amiens, parts of which had already classified as a “priority security zone” in need of extra policing. The policy formed part of the Socialists’ election campaign pledge on law and order.
Riot police and gendarmes sat in two dozen vans parked in the northern neighbourhood where a recent face-lift included the building of a gymnasium, swimming pool and cultural centre.
One resident, a taxi driver who gave his first name as Jonathan, called the perpetrators “a bunch of idiots.”
“It’s a game for them and will happen again,” he said. “It’s just to cause trouble because they are hurting their own people,” he said, blaming the riot on a weak police presence in recent years.”It was a ‘no-man’s-land’ and now they want to put in a big police presence. That will only provoke them,” he said.The immediate cause of the two days of disturbances appeared to have been a police spot check on Sunday of a person on the sidelines of a funeral of a young man killed in a road accident.
During a night of violence, rioters set fire to a number of vehicles, in some cases hauling the drivers out of their cars before burning them, mayor Demailly said.A nursery school was among the buildings gutted in the riot, and a handful of burnt out streets littered the streets late into Tuesday, though the streets were otherwise calm. No-one has been arrested so far.Valls, a law and order hardliner who irks some fellow Socialists, said there had been previous episodes this month already of what he described as “urban guerrilla” behaviour.As mayor of a racially mixed suburb before being appointed to Hollande’s government, Valls served more than 10 years ago as a spokesman for Socialist former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, whose 2002 presidential election defeat was partly put down to his image as soft on law and order.France has been rocked by periodic bouts of rioting on a number of occasions in the past decade.
Weeks of rioting in 2005, the worst urban unrest in France in 40 years, led to the imposition of a state of emergency by the then centre-right government in which Hollande’s predecessor Sarkozy was interior minister.Incidents involving police were the triggers for disturbances in 2007 and 2010.The repeat bouts of violence have provoked agonised debate over the state of the grim housing estates that ring many French cities and the integration of millions of poor whites, blacks and North African immigrants into mainstream society