From Aug. 9 to 14, the French police expelled some 450 Roma from encampments in a series of cities across the country, including Paris. Some 240 were put on a charter flight in Lyons and sent back to Romania, their country of origin.
Roma are an oppressed nationality in central and eastern Europe. Referred to disparagingly as “gypsies,” they have been a target of racist discrimination and violence across the continent.
In an Aug. 14 opinion column, Minister of Interior Manuel Valls stated that as far as these Roma encampments are concerned, “laissez-faire [non-interventionism] solves nothing” and firmness is “necessary.”
In a separate development, clashes between some 100 youth and 150 cops broke out Aug. 13 in the Nord working-class neighborhood of Amiens, mostly immigrants from North Africa, after what witnesses described as an abusive police spot check and arrest. The ensuing hourslong street battle resulted in 16 cops injured and several cars and public buildings torched. Youth unemployment in the area is around 60 percent.
Amiens-Nord is one of 15 areas across France that the government had earmarked earlier in August for increased policing.
“The state will mobilize all its means to combat these violent acts,” Hollande said the next day, announcing additional resources in the next budget for the cops and the gendarmerie, a special policing force under the ministry of defense.
In 2005, there were monthlong protests across France in working-class neighborhoods inhabited by immigrants—largely of African descent—against police harassment and brutality, as well as racist discrimination in employment, housing and education. “Little has changed [since] for France’s marginalised youth,” commented an Aug. 14 BBC article.
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