Anti-Discrimination Activist Discusses Riots

Steve Inskeep talks with Marilou Jampalsky, press secretary for SOS Racisme, a French organization fighting discrimination. Jampalsky says media coverage of the riots has stoked imitations across suburbs, but that there is also a lot of anger at the government.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This week we've been hearing several perspectives on the rioting in France and next we're going to hear from Marilou Jampolsky. She is the press secretary for SOS Racisme, a French organization which is fighting discrimination and she's on the line.

Ms. Jampolsky, why do you think the riots have not died down yet, run their course after 13 days?

Ms. MARILOU JAMPOLSKY (Press Secretary, SOS Racisme): You know, there is many ...(unintelligible) about that. And I think the first thing is that young people feel left out in the media and they try to imitate every night and to do better. And when they see on the TV ones who have burned three cars, they want to burn four, so there is a sort of contest between the suburbs. That's why it's doing so long. And I also think that people are very, very angry against the government, so it's not going to calm down just so easily.

INSKEEP: What has made people in these particular suburbs of Paris so angry about the government?

Ms. JAMPOLSKY: Because people in the suburbs have a very difficult way of life. It's very difficult for them to find jobs because they are discriminated and very difficult for them to find a decent apartment when they want to get out. They try to find apartment, but are discriminated, too. I think that kind of life is very difficult to live every day and now they are fed up with that kind of life and try to express themselves as the way they learned to do it, and I'm afraid that the young people of the suburb only learn to express themselves with violence.

INSKEEP: You mentioned the difficulty of finding jobs. I know that's something of great concern to you in the busy office where you are there in this organization, but we were speaking to a French parliamentarian yesterday who was saying that, look, this is the act of criminals and drug dealers and there are a lot of people who are unemployed and how many are really rioting?

Ms. JAMPOLSKY: I don't know. You know, it's very few minority rioting. I think, you know, the media went way over control of that number and I think some people like to see suburb in that kind of violent state, so people just do a lot about that. But in reality, when you go out in the field, you see that there is a minority rioting and the others are very good people and try to resolve the issue and calm down the others and just want a normal life. They are angry too against government, I think, but they try to express themselves with political ...(unintelligible) and try to speak with the government.

INSKEEP: Do you think that the cause that you advocate for, fighting racism and discrimination, has been helped at all by these riots?

Ms. JAMPOLSKY: No, not at all. I think--totally I am not excusing violence. I think it is a very bad thing and for our fight it is very difficult to see that because we work a lot with the suburb and when you see young people behave like that, it's very hard after for the city and the suburb have a normal life. I think after that and after the French see that kind of images, it's going to be very difficult for one, three or maybe 10 years for the people of the suburb to just have a normal life, because everybody are going to--are scared of the suburb people.

INSKEEP: Ms. Jampolsky, thank you very much.

Ms. JAMPOLSKY: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: Marilou Jampolsky is the press secretary for SOS Racisme, which is a French organization fighting discrimination.

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