A fury of anger among inhabitants of housing developments enveloped Paris as people protested the death of two teenagers whose moped crashed into a police car. President Sarkozy termed the outbreak an example of “urban guerrilla warfare” which witnessed young men firing shotguns at the police while others torched dozens of automobiles. An estimated 77 policemen were injured, including five who were listed in critical condition. People in the neighborhood charge police left the scene of the accident and did not provide assistance to the boys who crashed into their vehicle. Omar Sehhouli, brother of one of the dead boys, characterized the outbreak as stemming from the “failure to assist a person in danger” since he believes his brother was left to die by police who drove away. He also claimed people were not engaging in violence, but it was an “expression of rage.”
This is not the first example in which young men, mainly Muslim, rioted over alleged actions by police that led to the death of boys. Mr. Sehhouli is correct on one point, the riots are an expression of rage, an anger caused by continued failure of French society to deal with issues of poverty and discrimination against those of the Muslim faith. Does the presence of discrimination validate resort to violence? Of course not, since France is a democracy and people must become politically active if they wish to redress wrongs. Perhaps, it is time for President Sarkozy to initiate programs to provide work training as well as employment, to provide decent housing conditions, and ensure that schools validate the dignity of children of the Muslim faith.