Scattered fires and violence as french riots recede14/11/2005 - 10:18:53
Youths set schools ablaze and torched cars before dawn today as pockets of violence persisted across France.
But authorities said the country’s worst unrest in nearly 40 years appeared to be nearing an end.
In scattered attacks overnight, vandals in the southern city of Toulouse rammed a car into a primary school before setting the building on fire and burned cars in north-eastern Strasbourg.
In northern France, arsonists set fire to a sports centre in the suburb of Faches-Thumesnil and a school in the town of Halluin, the North regional government said.
The naionwide storm of arson attacks, rioting and other violence, often by young people from impoverished minorities, has lost steam since the government declared a state of emergency on Wednesday.
Today, the Cabinet was to propose a bill allowing an extension of the 12-day state of emergency if needed.
Youths set fire to 374 parked vehicles overnight Saturday-Sunday, compared to 502 the previous night, police said. A week earlier, 1,400 cars were incinerated in a single night.
At least 208 cars had been burned and 81 people arrested by 2am this morning, the national police said. Five police officers were injured in confrontations with rioters, police said.
If the downward trend continues, “things could return to normal very quickly,” National Police Chief Michel Gaudin said, noting that French youths burn about 100 cars on an average Saturday night.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso proposed that the European Union give €50m to France for helping riot-hit towns recover. He said the EU could make up to €1bn available in longer-term support.
The 18 days of unrest – set off by the accidental electrocution deaths of two teens who thought police were chasing them – began in Paris’ poor suburbs, where many immigrants from North and West Africa live with their French-born children in high-rise housing projects.
France’s worst unrest since the 1968 student-worker protests is forcing the country to confront decades of simmering anger over racial discrimination, crowded housing and unemployment. The national jobless rate is nearly 10 percent, but it is around 40% for youths in housing projects.
Thousands of police guarded the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Elysees avenue and train stations in Paris over the weekend in response to calls for “violent action” sent through text messages and on Internet blogs.
But only one incident was reported in the French capital – a fire set at a gas station, the national police chief said.
In the next few days, France is expected to start deporting foreigners implicated in the violence – a plan by law-and-order Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy that has caused divisions in the government.
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