According to his bio, Matthew Moran is ‘currently a Research Associate at King’s College London and his research looks at a range of social and political issues in France’. According to King’s College itself, he ‘is currently working on a MacArthur-funded postdoctoral project that explores the relationship between nuclear, nationalism and identity and how these issues impact on policy-making.’
So the perfect guy to report on the Amiens troubles, right?
For the past two nights, the suburbs of Amiens in northern France have been the scene of violent clashes between police and local youths.
The annual Car-B-Q that’s become as much a feature of the banlieues as boules on the green in more typically French areas…
The immediate response of the state has been to pour police reinforcements into Amiens in an attempt to quell the violence. This is both predictable and inevitable; law and order must be restored to the area.
I might take issued with the idea that they had law and order beforehand.
But still, what exactly are you complaining about, if you accept that the state can’t not respond as needed?
More interesting, however, is Hollande’s claim that: “Our priority is security, which means that the next budget will include additional resources for the gendarmerie and the police.”
Well, why not? If you need more police to keep a lid on things – and I’d say that if people are going to bed at night wondering if their Citroen will be a trifle warm in the morning, I’d say you do – why qibble over it?
Sarkozy reduced the problem to the work of “thugs” and “delinquents” and claimed that a police crackdown would be the solution. The problem is, this approach simply doesn’t work because the police are not the solution, they are part of the problem.
Really? I don’t see many police going round setting fire to cars…
It is no exaggeration to say that the police have been involved in the immediate causes of practically every episode of rioting in French suburbs since 1981.
Well, give us an example, then?
Consider some of the most recent examples of rioting in French suburbs. In 2005, the riots were sparked by the deaths of Bouna Traoré et Zyed Benna, electrocuted as they fled from police in Clichy-sous-Bois.
Ah. Right. So, what the police did wrong here was not catch them before they got to the substation? Seems to me more police would have helped there…
In 2007, riots erupted when two youths from the Parisian suburb of Villiers-le-Bel died in a collision with a police car.
The two youths that were driving an unregistered vehicle and were not wearing helmets?
Once again, more police to stop them doing illegal things before they hurt themselves would seem to be quite useful, no?
In the banlieues, the relationship between police and public is one built on mutual distrust, suspicion and, above all, conflict. Repeated identity checks, insults, provocation and constant suspicion have become part of the daily routine for the many young people who live in these areas.
Maybe that’s because in these areas, so many ‘young people’ steal things, run from the police, kill themselves and then their friends all protest this monstrous injustice by burning and looting their own areas?
Police can be part of the long-term solution, but only if the current trajectory of police-public relations is reversed. The French government needs to look closely at how the suburbs are policed rather than how many officers can be stationed there.
Yes, I’m sure police who don’t chase fleeing miscreants will make the place much more law abiding.
Hollande and the banlieues are at a turning point. If he embraces security and continues on the path of his predecessor, the suburbs will erupt again. However, if the president and his government make an effort to engage with the issues underlying the riots, not least the matter of policing, the process of reducing the gap that separates the banlieues from mainstream society can finally begin.
It seems to me that the thing that most separates the banlieues from the rest of society is their rejection of it’s norms and laws.