[News] French Youth Express Their Rage

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Fri Nov 11 08:41:33 EST 2005

sent by Andy Pollack

See also:
-- the best part is at the end: "'It's no wonder these kids are protesting
when their future looks like a dead end,' said Michel Narbonne, 59, who
sells stamps to collectors at a Paris street market. 'They are frustrated,
like the majority of French people. These kids are doing what most French
people have wanted to do for the past 10 years.'"

(Which disproves a claim earlier in the article about the French rejection
of the EU being due to white racism. In fact the "Non" movement was a huge
working-class mobilization.)

[Two reporters from *Le Monde* (Paris) gave this report on what some of the
rioters in France are thinking and feeling.  --Mark]

Le Monde (Paris) - November 8, 2005
reposted at http://www.ufppc.org/content/view/3602/

[Translated from *Le Monde* (Paris)]


By Yves Bordenave and Mustapha Kessous
Translated by Mark K. Jensen

Sunday, November 6: 8:00 p.m.  Abdel, Bilal, Youssef, Ousman, Nadir, and
Laurent (their names have been changed) are at the foot of the eleven-story
cliff that is the "112" housing project in Aubervilliers
(Seine-Saint-Denis).  When he joins them, Rachid, dressed in a bulky down
jacket, lights a cigarette and sets fire to the refuse bin.  "It's too bad,
but we have to," says Nadir.  For ten days, the scenario has been repeating
itself on a daily basis.  The small gang of this public housing project on
the rue Hélène Cohennec, where more than a thousand people live, want to
"break everything." Cars, warehouses, gymnasiums, are targets of this anger
that does not answer to any marching orders or organization.

"If one day we get organized, we'll have hand grenades, bombs,
kalashnikovs...  We'll say meet at the Bastille and it'll be war," they
warn.  Neither bosses nor Islamists seem to be telling them what to do, much
less manipulating them. For the time being, the 112 gang is acting alone in
its neighborhood: the "organization" is more like an improvised party than a
warlike undertaking.  "Everybody contributes something," Abdel explains.

"We feel rebellion more than hatred," says Youssef, the oldest of the band.
Twenty-five, he says he's "calmed down" since he became engaged, though.  He
still feels "rage," though.  It's especially aimed at Nicolas Sarkozy and
his "warlike" vocabulary: "Since we're scum, we're going to give that
raciest something to vacuum up.  Words hurt worse than blows.  Sarko has to
resign.  We'll keep going as long as he doesn't apologize."

There is, added to this "rage," the incident of the tear-gas bomb used
against the mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois, one week ago.  "A blasphemy,"
according to Youssef.  "Gassing religious people who are praying is
something you don't do. They're insulting our religion." The judicial
investigation should determine whether the tear-gas bomb was thrown inside
the mosque or in front of the entrance.  All these young people have stored
up "too much rancor" to listen to appeals for calm.  "It's like a dog
against a wall, it becomes aggressive.  We're not dogs, but we're reacting
like animals," says Ousman.

Laurent, 17, the youngest of the band, claims he "torched" a Peugeot 607, a
few feet from here, only two hours ago.  For them, nothing's easier.  All
you need is a glass bottle filled with gasoline and a rag for a fuse, you
break a window and throw the cocktail inside: in two minutes the car is on
fire, if it doesn't blow up first.

Why burn these car that usually belong to someone they know?  "We have no
choice.  We're ready to sacrifice everything since we have nothing," Bilal
says in his own defense.  "We even burned a friend's car.  He was furious,
but he understood."

The friend in question is here.  He's 21, works as kitchen helper in a
restaurant in Paris's 15th arrondissement, and doesn't disagree.  He pulls
out his cell phone and proudly shows the screen saver: the picture of a
police car on fire taken a few months ago during earlier events, after the
death of an Aubervilliers youth.  "You know, when you're waving a Molotov
cocktail, you say watch out.  There are no words for expressing what you
feel; you only know how to talk by setting fire."

No recipe escapes their incendiary quest.  Thus, in more home-made fashion,
"acid bombs bought at Franprix" and stuffed with aluminum foil, used by kids
13 or 15 years old.  "When at that age all you have is rebellion, it's
because there's a serious problem," says Abdel, who expresses his "fear of
having kids who would be raised in rage."

8:19 p.m., a fire engine siren sounds.  "Here come the cops.  We're out of
here," orders Youssef.  The band slips into the foyer.  Here, the elevator
only goes to two of the eleven stories of the building: the fifth and the

On the fifth floor, they feel safe from a possible police check.  Bilal, 21,
knows something about that: "Today, I was stopped two times.  The cops put
me on the ground while sticking a flash-ball (a handgun that fires rubber
bullets) in my face and insulted me." So he doesn't understand why the
government devotes "millions of euros to equipping the police when they
refuse to give a cent to open a youth center."

Youssef and his gang are not fools.  They know how much the violence they
are setting loose creates prejudices against them.  "We're not vandals,
we're rioters," he says in his own defense.  "We're all getting together, so
that our rebellion will be heard," they say.  And to express their
discontent.  "In the band, we're all out of work, we have nothing more
coming to us," says Nadir, 25.  Like the others, he quit school at 16 after
failing the electrotechnical BEP [= brevet d'études professionnelles, a
vocational diploma].  Since then, all he's had is odd jobs as a packer,
loading pallets.  "Anyway, what else is there to do?" he sighs.  "For 100
CVs I sent, I got three interviews.  Even when I know somebody, I get
rejected," he says bitterly.  For them, school did nothing.  "That's why
we're burning them," says Bilal.

And what if the provocative formulas of Nicolas Sarkozy gave them the
occasion they were waiting for?  Didn't they allow them to set free this
"rage," till now kept bottled up?  "We're drowning, and instead of throwing
us a buoy, they're pushing our heads underwater; help us," they insist.
These young people say they have "no reference points," they're
"misunderstood," "victims of racial discrimination," "condemned to live in
dirty cities," and "rejected." They hide neither their gladness nor their
"pride" that the riots are spreading everywhere: "There's no competition
between the projects.  This is pure solidarity."

9:00 p.m.  The group goes back outside, at the bottom of the cliff.  The
firemen have extinguished the refuse bin.  Youssef and his friends ask:
"What are we waiting for?  Let's go burn something."

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
Email: jensenmk at plu.edu

NYTr Digest, Vol 18, Issue 10

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