Slow Restoration of Order in France
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne. The violence that has rocked many French cities and suburbs the last two weeks has diminished considerably. Last night, there was a big decline in the number of car burnings. though one school in eastern France was destroyed when it was fire bombed. For an update on the situation, we turn to reporter Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
And, Eleanor, does the worst seem to be over?
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY reporting:
Well, that is what they're saying, Renee. Despite some isolated incidents around France, a lot of the hardest hit Paris suburbs are saying it was a return to normality last night. But at the same time, they're keeping the high level of security because we're coming up on a three-day weekend here. It's November 11th, Armistice Day. There's going to be no school and officials are expecting that there could be more trouble coming up on the weekend.
MONTAGNE: Earlier in the week, the French prime minister invoked emergency powers and many communities across the country did impose curfews. These measures then seemed to, though, had an effect.
BEARDSLEY: Well, it does seem so. The measures were not--the curfews were not as widely invoked as they thought they would be. Many areas have the right to do it but haven't. They've held off. About 30 towns have done so, but many communities say they are holding off because they don't feel that it's necessary right now. So the measure is in place but we'll see. It hasn't been in full use, you know, throughout the country.
MONTAGNE: Eleanor, last night, you went on a car patrol with people who live in one of these Paris suburbs. Tell us about that.
BEARDSLEY: That was very interesting because it was a Paris suburb in the hardest hit community, which is Seine-Saint-Denis, but it was a very nice little community. People were well off. It was sandwiched between all the really hard-hit areas, yet they had had no violence spill over yet into their community, and they wanted to keep it that way. This community had a curfew that was actually in place before the prime minister allowed curfews. The mayor did a decree and started the curfew two days earlier. And they had this community patrol at night, so sort of a double system to make sure that none of the violence came in. And, you know, we saw some youths on the street, you know, 10 minutes before the curfew and they were rushing home. And it was just a quiet, nice little town and it did--there was nothing ominous about it, yet it was neighboring right next door to Clichy-sous-Bois where the violence began.
MONTAGNE: You know, there's still quite a bit of controversy surrounding the remarks made early on in these riots by the French interior minister. First, quickly remind us what he said but in light of the fact that you found people who support what is a really hard-line position.
BEARDSLEY: That's right. Well, what he said--OK, last night, I was in a very conservative community and these people are big supporters of Nicolas Sarkozy. You know, even at the height of his troubles, 57 percent of the population supported him even though some thought he was a little rough in his words. You know, he basically said--not all at once and it was often taken out of context--but he called, you know, troublemakers in the suburbs, words like riffraff and scum, and, you know, he said he was going to clean out the suburbs with a power hose. So that really annoyed the left wing and a lot of immigrant communities. Still, the traditional France, the French people, conservative France, they love his hard-line stance. And the people I was with last night, they said, you know, `Thank goodness for Nicolas Sarkozy. He's the first interior minister who's gone into these suburb housing projects. No one's dared to go in there in 20 years. There's drugs and crime and he goes in there and he's telling the truth about it, and we support him.'
MONTAGNE: Eleanor, thanks very much for joining us. Reporter Eleanor Beardsley speaking from Paris.