Thursday, April 12, 2007

The spark in the tinder

There was not much attention paid outside France to the incident at the Gare du Nord, where a dispute over a ticket inspection led to serious disturbances which began on the afternoon of 27 Mar and went on until around 1:00am the next morning. One of the columnists in the FT commented the following Saturday. I wrote them the following letter:
Christopher Caldwell (‘Harsh policing goes transatlantic’, March 31/April1) is right to point to the importance of the disturbances at the Gare du Nord and to say, “It was not the style of the police that upset the mob, but the act of enforcing the law at all,’ before he drifts off into despair about irreconcilable differences between the races in Europe as a whole.

There are aspects specific to France in this. And the Left has more to say than stating the obvious.

The police de proximité, which in British political discourse we might describe as ‘Bobbies on the beat’, was introduced by a Socialist government (‘co-habiting’ with the centre-right President), before being done away with by Mr Sarkozy. As an independent expert put it recently, that the policy was not very well implemented then does mean it is wrong in principle. Sarkozy preferred to rely on ‘high-tech’ methods, which meant that when the police did venture into the banlieues, they were viewed as an invading army.

And this is not to mention that the immigrant communities face ‘exclusion’, a proven lack of equal access to jobs.

Update: as those who have travelled there in the last year or two will know, the Gare du Nord is now actually called Paris Nord.


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