When are the Paris riots going to end? Reuters reports that things may be dying down or just getting started.
Rioting erupted again late on Thursday despite hopes that festivities ending the fasting month of Ramadan would calm rioters, many of them Muslims of North African origin protesting against race bias they say keeps them in a second-class status. ...
Police said there were fewer confrontations than previous nights when police and fire crews were fired upon by some rioters. They said 150 vehicles had been destroyed overnight. ...
For the first time disturbances spread outside the Paris region, youths torching cars in Dijon, Rouen and the Bouches-du-Rhone area dominated by Marseille, though the extent of the unrest was not immediately clear.
An AP-sourced story quotes Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy as imputing a strategic plan to the disturbances; in which case the riots have gone beyond their original roots and are now a vehicle to advance a broader political or ideological agenda, though who is providing encouragement is not yet clear.
Mr. de Villepin's major political rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said yesterday that the riots in several Paris suburbs over the previous night were "not spontaneous" but rather "well organized," Agence France-Presse reported.
"What we saw in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis overnight was not spontaneous, it was perfectly organized. We are looking into by whom and how," Mr. Sarkozy told French news channel I-Tele.
I originally thought the clashes would peter out from a combination of exhaustion and the colder weather. But maybe there's more fuel on the ground than just the local grievances in some housing estates. The disturbances are no longer about two teenagers electrocuted while fleeing the police. They are now about French presidential politics, race, jobs, immigration, multiculturalism -- with perhaps a touch of Islamic ideology thrown in. As such the riots have become national, Europe-wide and maybe even global events.
The riots have already reached 20 suburbs of Paris. The Reuters story suggests they may now be spreading to other cities. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is hinting darkly of conspiracies. Should one conclude even more serious developments are in the offing? I don't know. I think that neither Sarkozy nor the conspirators he refers to understand the exact potential of this thing, which is behaving like a chaotic system whose trajectory is difficult to predict except in the very short term.
Ideally, Sarkozy would be looking to simplify the situation by fixing some variables so that the remainder of the system will behave in a more linear manner; gradually damping it down until it can be controlled. But splits within the French cabinet have done the opposite: they have added more variables to the mix and now it's shake, rattle and roll.
In these situations, as most rabble-rousers know, there is typically a race on the ground to see who can 'harness' the energies unleashed to best advantage. My own guess, without any special knowledge, is that 'community moderates', ideological radicals and even gangsters are in a derby to see who can control events. The French government by contrast, seems tied up in knots and is casting around for leverage, a way to get a handle on the events of the past week. Things could stop tomorrow or zoom off in some unexpected direction. Nothing to do but watch and wait.