Paris on Fire (Again)

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According to media reports, two teens on a motorbike smashed into a police car setting off yet another series of riots in the suburbs of Paris. As in 2005, youths crowded the streets throwing firebombs, rocks and other projectiles, the difference this time is the prevalence of firearms. As of this post, 82 police officers have been injured, some with lead shot and even high power assault rifles.

“Things have changed since 2005,” said Joachim Masanet, secretary general of the police wing of the UNSA trade union. “We have crossed a red line. When these kids aim their guns at police officers, they want to kill them. They are no longer afraid to shoot a policeman. We are only on the second day since the accident, and already they are shooting guns at the police.”

Some young men stood by the charred timbers of the town’s police station, laughing and surveying the damage.

Cem, 18, of Turkish origin, declined to give his name because he feared police reprisals. But he and his friend Karim, of Algerian descent, said they both had participated in rioting over the past two days.

“That’s just the beginning,” Cem said. “This is a war. There is no mercy. We want two cops dead.”

Karim added: “The police brought this on themselves. They will regret it.”

In addition to the use of firearms, another difference this time is the political leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2005 he called the rioters “scum,” but has since toned down his rhetoric. Will Sarkozy be willing to use force against the rioters? And, if so, to what extent?

When I read about these riots in Paris my first thought is “that sort of thing would never happen in the United States. The public (let alone the police) wouldn’t stand for it.” While we certainly have had our share of riots in the United States, and some not that long ago, we generally support a robust response when criminals deliberately target police with firearms.

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