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France

Curfew cannot stop revolt

Monday 14 November 2005

In spite of the emergency powers that came into force at midnight on 9 November, the movement of revolt that is sweeping the poor neighbourhoods and estates on the edges of France’s major cities is continuing.

For the first time the riots spread to a major city centre, when police clashed with stone-throwing youths in Lyon on Saturday afternoon. With his usual subtlety, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy described it as a “demonstration by anarchists”. He has threatened to deport foreign nationals convicted as a result of the riots - which would in fact affect only a small number of the around two thousand young people who have been arrested, (though not all have been charged) since the revolt began on 27 October - most of them, though of immigrant origin, were born in France and so have French nationality.

Although the leadership of the French Socialist Party has acquiesced in the government’s measures, other forces on the Left have begun to organise. A first protest rally against the state of emergency took place on 9 November in Bobigny, administrative centre of the Seine-Saint-Denis department where the revolt started, with over 500 people present. It was supported by a wide range of political organisations, trade unions and associations in the department, notably the Communist Party and the LCR, which was represented by Olivier Besancenot.

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Emergency powers were used to ban open-air rallies in Paris on Saturday and Lyon on Sunday. Nevertheless 1500 people demonstrated in Paris on Saturday evening against the state of emergency and to demand the resignation of Sarkozy. The LCR, which took part in this demonstration, is in favour of the organisation of a major united-front initiative against the state of emergency in the coming days.

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