France returns to normal: a timeline of the riots

2nd November 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 17 (AFP) - Three weeks after violence broke out in poor French city suburbs, police said for the first time Thursday that the level of unrest overnight was back to normal.

PARIS, Nov 17 (AFP) - Three weeks after violence broke out in poor French city suburbs, police said for the first time Thursday that the level of unrest overnight was back to normal.

Here are key dates in the unrest, including the most serious physical incidents since the violence erupted on October 27:

Wednesday, October 19

-- Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who harbours presidential ambitions, declares a "war without mercy" on violence in the suburbs. "I've said they have to be cleaned -- we're going to make them as clean as a whistle," he tells regional police chiefs.

Tuesday, October 25

-- During a highly-publicised visit to Argenteuil, a suburb northwest of the capital, Sarkozy is pelted with stones and bottles as he outlines a new plan to root out crime from the neighbourhood.

Thursday, October 27

-- Two teenagers, Banou, a 15-year-old of Malian background, and Ziad, a 17-year-old of Tunisian origin, flee a police identity check at 5:30pm in the northeast suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. They scale the wall of an electrical relay station and hide near a transformer, but are electrocuted and die around 6pm after touching the high-voltage equipment. A 21-year-old man of Turkish origin with them is seriously hurt.

-- Youths in the suburb, hearing of the deaths, go on a rampage from around 10pm, burning 23 vehicles and vandalising buildings. Hundreds of riot police are targeted by bottles and stones. The violence tails off some four hours later.

Friday, October 28

-- Sarkozy says the two dead teenagers were not being pursued by police.

-- At 9pm, 400 youths clash with outnumbered police in Clichy-sous-Bois, throwing stones, bottles and, in some cases, Molotov cocktails. Twenty-three officers are hurt and their colleagues are forced to fire 'flash-balls' -- big rubber projectiles meant to stun -- to push back mobs. A bullet is fired at a riot police van without causing injury. Thirteen people are arrested and 29 vehicles are burned.

Saturday, October 29

-- Five hundred people hold a silent march through Clichy-sous-Bois in memory of the dead teenagers.

-- Violence resumes at night. Reinforced police squads encounter no big hostile crowds of youths, but 20 vehicles are burned. Nine people are detained, some of them for carrying hammers or petrol cans.

Sunday, October 30

-- The opposition Socialist Party says "the violence is getting worse day by day."

-- Clashes occur on the outskirts of Clichy-sous-Bois, resulting in six police officers being hurt, 11 people being arrested and eight vehicles being torched. A police teargas grenade hits a mosque, prompting anger among the suburb's large Muslim community.

Monday, October 31

-- The main police union describes the riots as "guerrilla" violence and urges politicians to avoid "putting fuel on the fire" by scoring points against each other.

-- Sarkozy says his "determination is absolute" to put down the riots. The families of the two dead teenagers refuse to meet him, saying he is "very incompetent".

-- Running clashes between youths and police take place in Clichy-sous-Bois and in surrounding suburbs. Nineteen people are arrested and 68 vehicles are torched.

Tuesday, November 1

-- Prime minister Dominique de Villepin meets the families of the dead teenagers, and invites Sarkozy along. He promises "light will be shed" on the circumstances of their deaths. A junior minister in charge of social policy, Azouz Begag, criticises Sarkozy's tough rhetoric and habit of going to poor neighbourhoods with media in tow.

-- Riots and clashes erupt in several other suburbs to the north and west of Paris, though the situation in Clichy-sous-Bois is calmer under the presence of several hundred police. Altogether, more than 180 vehicles are torched and 34 people arrested.

Wednesday, November 2

-- President Jacques Chirac says "tempers must calm down" and warns "an escalation of disrespectful behaviour would lead to a dangerous situation."

-- Villepin and Sarkozy cancel overseas trips to deal with the spreading violence.

-- Trouble erupts in 22 suburban towns north, south, east and west of Paris. A 56-year-old handicapped woman suffers severe burns when youths stop a bus and douse her petrol before throwing a flaming rag on her in the northern Paris suburb of Sevran. Police say 315 vehicles are torched and at least 15 people arrested. Four shots are fired at police without causing injury. A police station is ransacked, a car showroom is set fire to and a shopping centre and two schools are vandalised.

Thursday, November 3

-- A criminal investigation is opened into the deaths of the two teenagers.

-- Villepin vows the government "will not give in" to the violence.

-- Sarkozy says more than 140 people have been arrested since the violence began.

-- The riots resume at night, but for the first time spread to other areas around France, in Dijon, Marseille and in Normandy. Seven cars are also set alight in central Paris. In all, 517 vehicles are torched in and around the capital and another 78 people are arrested.

Friday, November 4

-- Arson hit-and-run attacks take place in suburbs around Paris and other French cities. A total of 897 vehicles are torched and more than 250 people arrested.
-- A firefighter was hospitalised with second-degree burns after being
hit in the face with a Molotov cocktail.

Saturday, November 5

-- Paris prosecutor general Yves Bot says "we can see organised actions, a strategy" in the violence.

-- The rampages again take place in suburbs outside Paris and other cities. Some 349 people are arrested and over 1,300 vehicles burned. Police use seven helicopters with lights and cameras to chase fast-moving youths who set fire to property then flee.

Sunday, November 6

-- The violence worsens, and spreads even to remote areas. Police say 1,408
vehicles were destroyed and 395 people arrested. Two officers sustain head
wounds when shots are fired at them, and another 30 are injured in clashes.

-- A female reporter for the South Korean television channel KBS TV was
set upon by a gang and beaten unconscious while covering the riots in the
northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers.

Monday, November 7

-- Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, died in hospital after being knocked into a coma by a hooded young man last week, as he was discussing the riots with a neighbour in the northern Paris suburb of Stains. His widow demands that those responsible be "punished".
-- The leader of the union of French magistrates says prosecutors cannot cope with the flood of detainees.
-- Villepin announces a cabinet meeting that will give regional authorities curfew powers, and says 1,500 more police will be deployed.
-- Two police officers were hospitalised after being hit by gun-shots in what colleagues said was an ambush by a gang of youths, at Grigny in the southern Paris suburbs.
-- Rioting flares again, most of it away from Paris. Police report 330 arrests and 1,173 vehicles burned, and 12 officers lightly injured in clashes.
Tuesday, November 8

-- Chirac's cabinet declares a state of emergency on the basis of a 1955 law  drafted for Algeria's war for independence. The northern city of Amiens immediately uses it to impose a night-time curfew for minors. Two Paris  suburbs, Savigny-sur-Orge and Raincy, and the town of Orleans bring in separate municipal curfews for minors.

-- Tuesday night, police report 617 car-burnings and 300 arrests (bringing to  1,800 the total number arrested since the start of the disturbances).

Wednesday, November 9

-- Authorities say that, although there was still trouble, there is "a very significant drop" in its intensity. Curfews come into force in 32 French towns and cities, under the emergency powers approved by the cabinet.

-- Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy says that non-French nationals convicted over the riots will be deported, drawing a furious reaction from rights groups. The interior ministry later says minors and other categories would be exempt.

Thursday, November 10

-- Sarkozy stands by his much-criticised remarks that rioters are "louts and rabble." Eight policemen are suspended after the alleged beating of a young rioter.

Friday, November 11

-- Remembrance Day ceremonies in central Paris draw a large police presence, but no trouble is reported. Authorities in the capital use their new powers to ban public meetings Saturday, citing Internet calls for youths to protest.

Saturday, November 12

-- Paris is quiet, but in Lyon police use tear-gas to disperse stone-throwing youths, in the first clash in the heart of a major city. The interior ministry says first expulsions of convicted foreigners could start Monday.

Sunday, November 13

-- Authorities in Lyon impose a ban on public meetings during the day. Police are confident things are returning to normal.

-- Far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen says the riots are the result of massive immigration from the Third World.

Monday, November 14

-- The French cabinet approves a bill to extend the state of emergency by three months. On national television, Chirac recognises "a deep malaise" and an 'identity crisis'; assures youths in the troubled areas that they belong to France and promises to improve access to work and fight discrimination.

Tuesday, November 15

-- The bill extending emergency powers is approved by the lower house. It is adopted the next day, Wednesday November 16, by the Senate; Sarkozy warns that "nothing has yet been won for good."

-- Opinion polls show improved ratings for Sarkozy, Villepin and Chirac.

Thursday, November 17

-- The national police service says the situation has returned to normal. The violence has left more than 9,000 vehicles torched, damaged scores of official buildings and led to the arrest of nearly 3,000 people.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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