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In The News

French City Outskirts Ablaze, Again: What's Different From 2005

Small, mobile and organized groups of young people full of violence and hatred for the police: an emerging movement a far cry from the "banlieues" riots in 2005.

Photo of a man throwing a rock at police forces during a protest in Nanterre on June 29

Protests in Nanterre, near Paris, on June 29

Cécile Cornudet


PARIS — In recent years, social unrest in France has taken on new forms, and colors, almost relegating violence in the urban outskirts to the background. "Red caps", "yellow jackets" and "black blocs" made the headlines, while the banlieues have seemed almost quiet since the 2005 riots sparked by the deaths of two teenagers who were hiding from the police. Sure, since then there have been plenty of clashes, but no riots, even during the strict lockdown in 2020.

But the powder keg was still there, and an all-too-familiar spark lit the fuse: police violence against a young man from the urban periphery. On Tuesday, an officer shot dead Nahel M., an unarmed 17-year-old of North African descent at a traffic stop north of Paris. Unrest erupted, with no signs of abating: According to the French interior ministry, 667 arrests have been made across France so far, as violence continues in Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Pau, Toulouse and Lille. Rioters faced off with police, as buildings and vehicles were torched and stores looted.

But some things have changed since 2005. Images posted on social networks, for instance, acted as an accelerant. "It all took off very quickly and very powerfully", noted a ministerial adviser. A single video of the incident — showing officers shooting Nahel M., in his car at point blank — has been seen and shared millions of times, spreading anger and fanning fury.

Anti-police sentiment, too, has been on the rise. In the past ten years, police-youth relations have degenerated further. Any notion of respect is now long gone, only hatred remains. Police officers are seen as rival gangs, and clash with over-armed youth.

Betting on extreme repression

In recent years, the violence has become more structured. Groups of 30 to 50 people, coordinating through their phones, find weapons, gather in one place, pick a target, set it on fire, pick another one a quarter of an hour later, and so on.

Everything can become a target, as long as its destruction is spectacular.

They are mobile, fast and elusive. In 2005, standoffs saw the two sides pitted against each other for hours at a time. This is no longer the case — now it's more "catch me if you can."

Any place will do. Not just in disenfranchised outskirts, but also in quiet suburbs and Parisian neighborhoods. Everything can become a target, as long as its destruction is spectacular: symbols of the state, of course, but also modes of transport, schools and social services.

Photo of a crowd displaying signs that read "Justice for Nahel" in Nanterre on June 29

Protest in Nanterre on June 29 after the police shot down Nahel M., 17

Aurelien Morissard/Xinhua/ZUMA

Exceptional situation, exceptional response

After the first night of violence — on the morning after Nahel’s death — the authorities' reaction was very similar to the public's, pointing fingers at the police officer. But now that tough stance has switched from the police officer to the destructive youth.

This, the government thought, is an exceptional situation that requires an exceptional response. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin thus decided to deploy 40,000 police officers as well as elite, specialized tactical police units (BRI, Raid and GIGN) and air support.

Buses and trams were banned after 9 pm, curfews established in several areas: the powers that be are pulling out all the stops to quell the movement as quickly as possible. As one advisor put it, "It's all coming down to tonight."

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Milei Elected: Argentina Bets It All On "Anything Is Better Than This"

The radical libertarian Javier Milei confounded the polls to decisively win the second round of Argentina's presidential elections; now he must win over a nation that has voiced its disgust with the country's brand of politics as usual.

Photo of Javier Milei standing in front of his supporters

Javier Milei at a campaign rally

Eduardo van der Kooy


BUENOS AIRES — Two very clear messages were delivered by Argentine society with its second-round election of the libertarian politician Javier Milei as its next president.

The first was to say it was putting a definitive end to the Kirchner era, which began in 2003 with the presidency of the late Néstor Kirchner and lasted, in different forms, until last night.

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The second was to choose the possibility, if nothing else, of a future that allows Argentina to emerge from its longstanding state of prostration. It's a complicated bet, because the election of the candidate of Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) is so radical and may entail changes to the political system so big as to defy predictions right now.

This latter is the bigger of the two key consequences of the election, but the voters turning their back on the government of Cristina and Alberto Fernández and its putative successor, (the Economy minister) Sergio Massa, also carries historical significance. They could not have said a clearer No to that entrenched political clan. So much so that they decided to trust instead a man who emerged in 2021 as a member of parliament, with a weak party structure behind him and a territorial base no bigger than three mayors in the Argentine hinterland.

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