[Marxism] FW: [snow-news] Le Monde: Firsthand account of a night with French rioters

David McDonald dbmcdonald at comcast.net
Mon Nov 7 21:13:15 MST 2005

More translation from Mark Jensen of PLU in Tacoma, WA, also of United for
Peace of Pierce County.

-----Original Message-----
From: jensenmk [mailto:jensenmk at plu.edu]
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2005 6:09 PM
To: jensenmk
Subject: [snow-news] Le Monde: Firsthand account of a night with French

TRANSLATION: Firsthand account of a night with French rioters (Le Monde)

[Two reporters from *Le Monde* (Paris) gave this report on what some of the
rioters in France are thinking and feeling.  --Mark]


[Translated from *Le Monde* (Paris)]

By Yves Bordenave and Mustapha Kessous

Le Monde (Paris)
November 8, 2005 (posted Nov. 7)


Sunday, November 6: 8:00 p.m.  Abdel, Bilal, Youssef, Ousman, Nadir, and
Laurent (their names have been changed) are at the foot of the eleven-story
cliff that is the "112" housing project in Aubervilliers
When he joins them, Rachid, dressed in a bulky down jacket, lights a
and sets fire to the refuse bin.  "It's too bad, but we have to," says
For ten days, the scenario has been repeating itself on a daily basis.  The
small gang of this public housing project on the rue Hélène Cohennec, where
more than a thousand people live, want to "break everything."  Cars,
warehouses, gymnasiums, are targets of this anger that does not answer to
marching orders or organization.

"If one day we get organized, we'll have hand grenades, bombs,
We'll say meet at the Bastille and it'll be war," they warn.  Neither bosses
nor Islamists seem to be telling them what to do, much less manipulating
 For the time being, the 112 gang is acting alone in its neighborhood:  the
"organization" is more like an improvised party than a warlike undertaking.
"Everybody contributes something," Abdel explains.

"We feel rebellion more than hatred," says Youssef, the oldest of the band.
Twenty-five, he says he's "calmed down" since he became engaged, though.  He
still feels "rage," though.  It's especially aimed at Nicolas Sarkozy and
"warlike" vocabulary:  "Since we're scum, we're going to give that raciest
something to vacuum up.  Words hurt worse than blows.  Sarko has to resign.
We'll keep going as long as he doesn't apologize."

There is, added to this "rage," the incident of the tear-gas bomb used
the mosque in Clichy-sous-Bois, one week ago.  "A blasphemy," according to
Youssef.  "Gassing religious people who are praying is something you don't
 They're insulting our religion."  The judicial investigation should
whether the tear-gas bomb was thrown inside the mosque or in front of the
entrance.  All these young people have stored up "too much rancor" to listen
to appeals for calm.  "It's like a dog against a wall, it becomes
We're not dogs, but we're reacting like animals," says Ousman.

Laurent, 17, the youngest of the band, claims he "torched" a Peugeot 607, a
few feet from here, only two hours ago.  For them, nothing's easier.  All
need is a glass bottle filled with gasoline and a rag for a fuse, you break
window and throw the cocktail inside:  in two minutes the car is on fire, if
it doesn't blow up first.

Why burn these car that usually belong to someone they know?  "We have no
choice.  We're ready to sacrifice everything since we have nothing," Bilal
says in his own defense.  "We even burned a friend's car.  He was furious,
he understood."

The friend in question is here.  He's 21, works as kitchen helper in a
restaurant in Paris's 15th arrondissement, and doesn't disagree.  He pulls
his cell phone and proudly shows the screen saver:  the picture of a police
car on fire taken a few months ago during earlier events, after the death of
an Aubervilliers youth.  "You know, when you're waving a Molotov cocktail,
say watch out.  There are no words for expressing what you feel; you only
how to talk by setting fire."

No recipe escapes their incendiary quest.  Thus, in more home-made fashion,
"acid bombs bought at Franprix" and stuffed with aluminum foil, used by kids
13 or 15 years old.  "When at that age all you have is rebellion, it's
there's a serious problem," says Abdel, who expresses his "fear of having
who would be raised in rage."

8:19 p.m., a fire engine siren sounds.  "Here come the cops.  We're out of
here," orders Youssef.  The band slips into the foyer.  Here, the elevator
only goes to two of the eleven stories of the building:  the fifth and the

On the fifth floor, they feel safe from a possible police check.  Bilal, 21,
knows something about that:  "Today, I was stopped two times.  The cops put
on the ground while sticking a flash-ball (a handgun that fires rubber
bullets) in my face and insulted me."  So he doesn't understand why the
government devotes "millions of euros to equipping the police when they
to give a cent to open a youth center."

Youssef and his gang are not fools.  They know how much the violence they
setting loose creates prejudices against them.  "We're not vandals, we're
rioters," he says in his own defense.  "We're all getting together, so that
our rebellion will be heard," they say.  And to express their discontent.
the band, we're all out of work, we have nothing more coming to us," says
Nadir, 25.  Like the others, he quit school at 16 after failing the
electrotechnical BEP [= brevet d'études professionnelles, a vocational
diploma].  Since then, all he's had is odd jobs as a packer, loading
"Anyway, what else is there to do?" he sighs.  "For 100 CVs I sent, I got
three interviews.  Even when I know somebody, I get rejected," he says
bitterly.  For them, school did nothing.  "That's why we're burning them,"
says Bilal.

And what if the provocative formulas of Nicolas Sarkozy gave them the
they were waiting for?  Didn't they allow them to set free this "rage," till
now kept bottled up?  "We're drowning, and instead of throwing us a buoy,
they're pushing our heads underwater; help us," they insist.  These young
people say they have "no reference points," they're "misunderstood,"
of racial discrimination," "condemned to live in dirty cities," and
"rejected."  They hide neither their gladness nor their "pride" that the
are spreading everywhere:  "There's no competition between the projects.
is pure solidarity."

9:00 p.m.  The group goes back outside, at the bottom of the cliff.  The
firemen have extinguished the refuse bin.  Youssef and his friends ask:
are we waiting for?  Let's go burn something."

Translated by Mark K. Jensen
Associate Professor of French
Department of Languages and Literatures
Pacific Lutheran University
Tacoma, WA 98447-0003
Phone: 253-535-7219
Web page: http://www.plu.edu/~jensenmk/
Email: jensenmk at plu.edu

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