Jacques Cheminade Calls for a State of Social Emergency in France

On June 27, in Nanterre, a working-class suburb of Paris, a 17 year old youth, Nahel, was shot and killed in his vehicle by a policeman, during a police control. It is this incident which set off an explosion of violence in the poorer districts of France, with rioting five nights in a row, leading to 5000 cars burned, 1000 buildings damaged, 250 police stations attacked, massive looting of stores and supermarkets, etc.

The shooting occurred after the young Franco-Algerian, according to the police version, threatened to drive away. Yet a video of the entire encounter filmed by a passerby and confirmed by the other two passengers of the car, shows that the car had stopped, with the two policemen standing next to the driver’s window, and the one who shot seems to say, by some accounts, “I’m going to put a bullet into your head”, just before the car begins to move again. An investigation will now have to determine the actual facts. Meanwhile, the policeman was jailed and is under investigation.

The problem, however, goes much deeper. The explosion of violence follows the French Republic’s failure to address the social unrest that has been brewing for years, as evidenced in the Yellow Vest movement that swept over France, starting in 2018, or the more recent protests on an unprecedented scale against the pension reform. In the specific case of the lower-class suburbs, where many young people of African and Maghreb immigrant parents live, they have not been given the means to develop and gain access to a better life. Mass delinquency is rampant in those areas, in particular drug trafficking.

Jacques Cheminade, president of Solidarité & Progrès, addressed this broader issue in a statement released on July 1.

“The outbreak of violence in our country comes as no surprise. The scandal is that, for so many years, nothing has been done to deal with the smoldering fire. The rioters not only looted stores, but also burned pharmacies and public buildings: town halls, courts, cultural centers, libraries, police stations and schools. The foundations of our society were targeted. In these circumstances, the challenge is not only to re-establish the right to public safety, but to rebuild a society that offers hope to all, without hypocrisy or naivety.

“For if we continue to appear preoccupied with immediate violence and to communicate about it, but do not root it out, the institutions of the Republic will collapse.”

The republican order, he writes, must respond to the citizens’ just demands and be applied equally to all, whether rich or poor, with no social or geographical segregation.

“To achieve this, we need to declare a state of social emergency, clearly identifying the target: a financial mafia on the top, which makes the law against the law and is increasingly linked, not only through drug use, to the mafia operating below. In the absence of political will, this mafia gangrene of a new criminal capitalism will destroy everything and lead to a war of all against all.”

Cheminade then proposes concrete measures to be taken and concludes thusly:

“Faced with the riots that have spread like rumors on social networks, the only solution is to organize a policy of the common good and the public good. The police and army must serve this purpose. This includes investigating the nature and means of the provocateurs who revived the smoldering fire. It is by eliminating the causes of the flame that we will succeed in extinguishing it…”

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