Nicolas Sarkozay condemns rioters 'yobocracy'
30 November 2007
PARIS – President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed on Thursday to track down the “yobs and traffickers” he accused of fomenting unrest in the high-immigration suburbs of Paris.
In a prime-time television interview, Sarkozy promised his government would take a tough line towards those behind a flare-up of violence that left more than 120 police wounded, some by gunfire.
“These people are yobs, ready to do anything. We will find them one by one,” said Sarkozy, who seized hold of the suburb crisis upon his return from a state visit to China.
Two nights of arson attacks and clashes around Villiers le Bel, north of the capital, were triggered by the death of two teenage boys in a motorbike collision with a police car on Sunday.
We came within inches of a catastrophe,” warned Sarkozy, who earlier visited several officers wounded by hunting rifle buckshot and bullets, including one who lost an eye.
Hundreds of riot police were on duty for a fourth night in Villiers and nearby towns, where a mass security presence has kept an uneasy calm for the past two nights.
Sarkozy charged earlier that the violence — France's worst unrest since nationwide riots in November 2005 — was caused by a hard core of delinquents rather than social deprivation.
“What happened in Villiers le Bel has nothing to do with a social crisis and everything to do with yobocracy,” he told a meeting of police officers.
“Other unemployed people do not open fire on the police,” he reaffirmed. “This has nothing to do with an accident. This has nothing to do with social problems. I will not respond to this with more money.”
“When you try to explain the inexplicable, you end up finding excuses for the inexcusable.”
His words were echoed by Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, herself a social activist from the “banlieues”, who told Le Parisien newspaper that “what happened is not a social crisis. This is anarchic urban violence carried out by a minority, who tarnish the majority.”
Sarkozy said an action plan for the poor suburbs to be announced in January would focus on encouraging social mobility “for those who want to get out”, while promising tough treatment for delinquents.
Government policy would be “more generous to those who want training and a job, a family and a home, and more severe to those whose only idea is to poison the lives of others,” he said.
The initial findings of an investigation into Sunday's accident confirmed the police version according to which the police vehicle was driving at normal speed when it was crashed into by the two teenagers, neither of whom was wearing a helmet, Le Figaro newspaper reported.
Some local people appear to believe that the crash was deliberately caused by the police, who they say left the scene without treating the victims.
The suburb violence came hard on the heels of a paralysing nine-day transport strike against Sarkozy's pension reform plans, the most serious challenge to his presidency since his election in May.
A poll taken at the height of the strike showed Sarkozy's confidence ratings tumbling below 50 percent for the first time, with respondents complaining of stagnating wages and rising prices and stubbornly high unemployment, at 8.1 percent.
Sarkozy pledged to “put some fuel” back into the economy, but with sluggish growth and French public finances stretched to capacity, he warned the solution could not come from state “hand-outs”.
“The French people are not waiting for me to hand out gifts like Father Christmas when they know there is no money in the coffers,” he said.
Sarkozy insisted the only way to boost spending power was to allow people to “work more to earn more” — his key campaign slogan — promising to let firms circumvent the 35-work week under agreement with workers and unions.
Forty-nine percent of respondents told the TNS-Sofres poll they doubted Sarkozy's ability to wrench France out of the economic doldrums.