France's Immigrant Youth Rebellion Anniversary Sparks Violence
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Saturday 28 October 2006, 5:32 Makka Time, 2:32 GMT
Tensions have been high ahead of the anniversary
Two buses have been set alight in a Parisian suburb as France's interior minister deployed 4,000 extra police to prevent a repeat of last year's rioting.
The latest bus burnings came just hours after hundreds of people marched in silence through the rundown suburb of Clich-sous-Bois on Friday to commemorate the deaths of Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna which triggered the riots a year ago.
A police source in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb said two hooded men boarded one bus in front of a train station in in the early evening and ordered around 15 passengers and the driver to get off before setting it alight.
The second bus was attacked in a similar way by two armed men in another area of the suburb, a local official said.
At least five buses have been attacked in poor suburbs around the capital since Sunday and police have said violence could spiral out of control once again.
The fresh violence came despite the deployment of 4,000 extra policemen to prevent a repeat of last year's disturbances.
Hundreds of people had marched earlier in the day to commemorate accidental deaths of two young immigrants in an electricity substation last year.
Soumeya Ata, who travelled to Clichy-sous-Bois from the distant southwestern town of Pau to attend the commemoration, said: "You can really feel the anger and the suffering of the people who live in Clichy-sous-Bois."
Around 500 mainly young people from immigrant families marched on Friday.
Traore and Benna were killed after being electrocuted when they hid in an electrical substation while fleeing from the police, according to witness reports.
Their deaths triggered the worst riots to hit the French capital in nearly 40 years.
Marchers, many sporting T-shirts with the slogan "Dead for Nothing", passed the electrical substation where the two died and their families wept as they laid flowers at its gate.
Organisers called for quiet reflection to mark the tragedy, although some television crews pulled out after their staff were threatened by local youths.
Tensions remain high in France's rundown suburbs, where poor job prospects, racial discrimination, a widespread sense of alienation from mainstream society and perceived hostile policing incited a wave of violence 12 months ago.
Rafika Benguedda, a 21-year-old student and marcher, said: "Nothing has changed."
An upsurge in attacks on buses on the eve of the anniversary prompted Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior ministor, to draft in extra police late on Thursday after transport chiefs warned they could pull services if the arson continued.
Law and order could again play strongly in 2007 presidential elections in which hardliner Sarkozy, the conservative frontrunner, is likely to run.
The 2005 riots were the worst in the Paris area since student riots in 1968.
Police deployed in Paris suburbs
Extra police have been ordered into suburbs in the French capital, Paris, on the first anniversary of two deaths which sparked riots across the country.
An additional 4,000 officers were deployed amid reports two more buses had been attacked and set ablaze.
Earlier, at least 500 people marched in memory of the two teenage boys, both from immigrant families, who died.
Their deaths and the suggestion they had been running from police triggered three weeks of suburban clashes.
During the violence - between youths of mainly North African origin and police - more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 300 buildings firebombed.
Ahead of the anniversary police had reported an upsurge in violence. On Thursday, two buses were set ablaze.
In the latest incidents, at least two more buses were set on fire.
Two armed men forced passengers from a bus in the northern Parisian suburb of Blanc Mesnil, before burning it.
A second similar attack took place in the same suburb shortly afterwards, police said.
"What happened is four guys attacked Bus 346," witness Thierry Ange told the Associated Press news agency.
"They made everyone get off, then they hit a woman and dragged out the bus driver by his tie," he said.
Both vehicles were destroyed, but there were no reported injuries.
Appeal for calm
Earlier, several hundred people marched through the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the riots started.
The families of the two dead youths, Bouna Traore and Zyed Benna, laid wreaths at the electricity sub-station where they were electrocuted.
A monument to the boys was unveiled and the local mayor appealed for calm.
"Last year we crossed Clichy by weaving between the burnt-out wrecks of cars, creating an image of our city that we didn't want to see," said mayor Claude Dillain, quoted by the Associated Press.
"Once again France, and even the world, is watching us and waiting to see what we do. So I appeal solemnly for calm and dignity to prevail here."
But others have warned that factors which played a key part in the riots - high unemployment, discrimination and youth alienation from mainstream society - remain unchanged.
"What is being done in order to ensure Clichy does not have three times as many unemployed as the rest of France?" Mr Dillain's deputy, Olivier Klein, asked.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/10/27 20:40:27 GMT
French riots: Is history repeating?
LA COURNEUVE, France -- Cars set ablaze, police patrols ambushed, a bus torched.
One year after three-week long riots shocked France, new attacks in ethnically-mixed suburbs have put police on alert and led locals to warn that violence will explode in poor neighborhoods if poverty and unemployment persist.
"For several weeks, we have seen escalating violence," said Frederic Lagache from the Alliance police union.
"We have the impression that some people in difficult neighborhoods want to mark the anniversary of the November 2005 violence ... by attacking police."
Weekend pictures of youths setting cars ablaze in the Grigny suburb south of Paris brought back memories of last year's riots, which kicked off in a Parisian suburb before spreading across the country in the worst civil unrest in some 40 years.
Police have warned the new violence risked spiraling out of control as politicians geared up for next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.
The conservative presidential frontrunner, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, reiterated this month the tough stance he took after last year's troubles, promising harsher punishment for young offenders.
But many youths charge that Sarkozy, who called the rioters "scum", is using them as a scapegoat without addressing the causes of the crime, such us poverty and discrimination.
Sarkozy's likely Socialist challenger, Segolene Royal, has also made more headlines with her strict proposals on crime than with plans on how to boost employment in the rundown estates.
'This is the ghetto'
"Nothing's been done to integrate us. Crime won't go away if there are no jobs," said Cameroonian Alain Roger, 30, repairing a friend's car on a parking lot surrounded by bleak estates.
"In Paris the nobility rules. Here, it's the ghetto," Roger said of his La Courneuve suburb, which is just a 30-minute drive from the Eiffel Tower and French parliament.
"As soon as they see '9-3' on your address, you're out," said Cyril Nzok from Cameroon, referring to the postcode of the crime-ridden suburbs north of Paris.
Unemployment in the poor high-rise estates often hits 40 percent -- more than four times the national average.
Conservative Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin last year promised better schooling, help for job seekers and more money for local associations in response to the riots.
France's Minister for Equal Opportunities Azouz Begag says the government has done more than any other to fight discrimination, organizing meetings around France to encourage firms to hire youths from diverse background.
"Now it's up to each French person -- white, black, Arab, man or woman, to ... demand to be treated equally," Begag, a son of Algerian immigrants, told Reuters in a recent interview.
But Sherifa Kasdi, who teaches French to immigrant children and adults, said her association had received no extra money or help since the riots although demand for her classes was rising.
"We had to turn some people away this year, because we just can't handle them all," Kasdi said, sitting in a small classroom set in a former restaurant in a housing estate.
"It's cold in here and we cannot even afford a photocopier," she said. "But the classes are crucial to integrate people."
"A boy who wakes up, has nothing to do, is doing badly at school and has no job prospects -- It's all setting the stage for future riots," said Kasdi.
'Live like ants'
The mayor of Clichy-Sous-Bois, where the riots began after two French teenagers of African descent were electrocuted while escaping the police, said the suburbs needed concrete projects, not just good intentions.
Clichy still had no tramway, no unemployment office and not even a police station, Socialist mayor Claude Dilain said.
"All conditions are there for it to blow up (again) if people feel nothing has changed," he told Reuters.
On a more upbeat note, he said voter registration in many suburbs had risen, and some youths had created their own jobs.
Kader Latreche, a 36-year old of Algerian origin, started his photo equipment repair shop in the La Courneuve suburb north of Paris in March and said he had just employed two new people.
"I'd rather work for myself than be treated as 'the Arab' by a boss," he said, standing outside his small shop.
"Our main problem is this," he said, pointing at a 15-storey housing estate. "We live like ants on top of each other."
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