Reflections on the violence within Thurday's demonstrations

Accounts and discussions on the mugging and beating of some demonstrators in last Thursday's Paris anti-CPE march.

Submitted by alibi on March 25, 2006

We've reported on the incidents of violence amongst those demonstrating in Paris in previous articles. What we understand to be a small number of youths robbing and attacking demonstrators in small gangs. In some incidents these gangs have been fighting one another.

In our forums here at discussions have taken place about this issue, events which have undermined the unity and morale of the demonstrators. Many of those involved in the discussions were involved in Thursdays demonstrations and we publish their accounts of the incidents themselves, as well as their take on the root causes.

Account 1
I will try to explain what I think about the violence yesterday.

First, you have to know that there is a great part of the students and above all the high school pupils from the suburbs who where demonstrating peacefully. The small groups who were around the demo were clearly from the suburbs and most, but not all of them were blacks or arabs" . They come from northern paris and the poor surburbs where a great part of the inhabitants are non-whites. And they can develope the opinion that it's not only the government, the police or the justice who are against them, but white people in general. But I think that as there are not real ethnic gettos in France, it is more a hate against all those people who don't live in their neighbourhood and who are often white people.

In fact they tend to identify those who are not dressed like them like near ennemies even if those people are blacks or arabs. This is more a social question than a racial question even if they clearly indentified that in this country blacks' or arabs' are often poorer than whites'.

What is confused in there heads is why this situation, who is responsible of that and how it can be changed. They are enraged against the system and they tend to see everyone who seems to be richer or different from them as an ennemy but at the same time they can understand that the real ennemy is the state and they turn their despair more against the police than against the students.

These kids are unemployed, they live isolated from the working class' movements, and in areas like the red belt around Paris where the communist party used to socialize and educate politically the workers but now only try to keep electorally one of its last stronghole.

They are the consequences of a double crisis. An objective crisis, whith a high unemployement and the incapacity to experiment in concret terms that they form part of the proletariat. A subjective crisis with the absence of political response to their social despair and the political destruction or the take over by the socialist party or the comunist party of every autonomous movements that try to emerge from those areas. They form part of what can be called the lumpen proletariat but I don't think they can be described as ennemies. In fact they are the living proof that the left and the extreme-left do not succed to offer a political response to their social despair.

They are in fact the minority in the suburbs who clearly will not be the first to be attracted by the extreme left or the left. And I think the state can used them indirectly to separate and weaken the movement. The solution to this problem is to offer a political alternative to the inhabitants of the poor suburbs to chanel their fury, to turn it against the real ennemies. It will not begin with those kids who attacks somme demonstrators to steal them but with the large majority of the suburb kids who were demonstrating with us against Villepin.

It is interesting to know that there is an important rise of electoral registration immediately after the suburbs’ uprising. It is clear that there is a strong demand in the suburbs to political response to their social misery.
But there is not yet a strong answer.

"Even now, in Rennes, les banlieux, the students and the militants fight together under the banner 'nous sommes tous cassuers' - we are all fighters."

The author of this statement is not in Rennes and seems to misunderstand and idealize the situation there. The Paris region concentrate the essential of the immigrants (2/3) and it’s clearly with Marseilles the place that is the more multiethnic in France. When you know that in France there is a clear problem of racial segregation, it is not difficult to imagine that in Rennes a city that is not really multiethnic, the problem caused by the existence of gettos are less important than in Paris.

It concentrates too the richer and the poorer areas of France, and with more than 10 millions inhabitants compare to 1 million for the Marseilles area, the second one, concentrates all the problem of big cities.

“Students and unionists have been overwhelmingly hostile to the banlieu on their demos, booing them when they overturn cars or attack police”.

That’s not true. I’m in the middle of the movement and I can say clearly that this is not the reality for the students.

Some of them are hostile to those attacking the police or overturning cars, but they are booing the anarchists like the kids from the banlieue who are doing that. If I disagree with these tactics, I’m against the state, not against some anarchists and some violent kids from the suburbs, because I have a clear undersatnding of what is the violence of the state.

But it is more difficult to explain to a kid who were attacked by another one that he should be in solidarity with them.

And you seem to forgot the thousands kids from the suburbs mostly blacks and arabs who were with the demonstrators and who were not attacking them like the hundred ones around the demo. The kids from the poor surbubs are not only those who attacked the police. This is a curious way to analyzed events.

I think that some anarchist/ autonomist by concentrating their action on attacking the police and overturning cars take the risk to break the movement. I’m not against violence especially against the police but I think that when it is used in a bad way it could kill the movement.

We know we will not win by facing day after day the police but by convincing more and more people to join the movement and above all the workers. That is the real question. Some militants don’t attack systematically the police but they concentrate on convincing workers in their place to be on strike on Tuesday and to continue after.
That is how we will win, by a general strike like in 1968 and not by small fights with police. Yes, this is funnier to play with the cops after the demos and it looks boring to take time to write, to organize, to talk in order to convince, to vote. .

And if we are all together, if the workers are with us, the use of violence to break the capitalist state will certainly be necessary but not in the same conditions that now.

And no , the movement is not dead in Paris like you say. Perhaps you are not in the universities, you are not in the general assemblies organized everywhere. This is there that the movement is really, there that the students can build big demos and convince more and more people to come in the movement.

One thing is clear, the tactics of using violence without thinking of the consequences for the movement will have clearly proven its failure.

The problem is clear now. Can we build a general strike in this country? If we want to do that, it’s not by fighting with cops that we will win but by inviting workers to the universities and by convincing more and more student. From the beginning, it was clear that only a general strike could stop this goverrnment. This is the only way to weaken capitalism.

But there is a real danger that the violence showed on tv could weakened the movement by discouraging workers to go on strike and frightening all those people who cannot understand for the moment that sometimes it can be necessary to use violence.

For those kids from the suburbs who attacked somme students, I think like I said before that there is for the moment a clear incapacity for the extreme left to offer a political alternative for them and those who are the more desesperate express their anger in an anarchic and improductive way. But, one more time, we should not forget that the large majority of the kids from the suburbs are not attacking the demos, they are in the demos.

I must add that I'm black and I'm coming from the french west-indies and I have many friends living in the suburbs who were demonstrating in the middle of the demos.
So I do not agree with this analysis of the situation.


Account 2
In many corteges froms high school of banlieue they linked their arms to protect them againsts agressives kids. You are right , there is no dialogue, but the dialogue is difficult when 10 fucking losers beat up a guy ! .... What do you do when you see 30 guys running and kick the ass of isolated demonstraors ?

They forgets that the main victims of attacks thursday were kids from banlieue by other kids from banlieue .... and they forgets that the majority of the teenagers of the banlieue don't participate in attacks on demonstrators, and will never participate in any violence. They are many suburban kids were shocked by the violence of thursday. They are many teenagers who fear now to go in demonstrations, like in 2005 when fucking losers mugged and kicked many of high school students during the movement. They do the same job that fascists , the consequence is to participate in the demobilisation of the students and teenagers.

L'agite - in the suburbs


Account 3
The gangs moved with incredible efficiency through the crowd, forwards and backwards as they co-ordinated with each other. But these co-ordinations (always on the basis of friendship networks/gangs - often one estate doesn't even co-ordinate with that next door) were as much for attacks on rival gangs/banlieu, mugging of demonstrators and the requisition of drug money as attacks on the police.


Account 4
The protest started off fairly peacefully, but rapidly descended into violence on the part of the kids from the suburbs. Right at the beginning they picked out some kid and set upon him.

Infact, trying to not be too negative about today, this was the first tme on a demonstration where I have been scared of the people I was protesting with.
The demo proceeded along, music and dancing, a nice atmosphere. Soon enough the burbs kids took it upon themselves to start smashing up cars, and not posh cars, but shitty little ones, anything they saw.

Demo ended in a massive park next to the river, where the kids decided to set upon anyone that took their fancy. I saw a women mugged of her bag, several protesters kicked in, and the press had a lot of their cameras jumped on. I was warned while snapping riot police getting decemated, that if i took photos they would kill me.

Demo ended when 3 cars got blown up, then there were lines of cops getting pelted by bricks and all sorts. At this point, I wasnt suprised to see a young lad picked up by 4 kids, and literally hurled into a line of police, where he was arrested. This is how little respect for the point of the demo some of these kids had. I still cant believe that happened. Solidarity?

Tear gas was fired, and we all had to run, eventually getting cordened in a bit...and dispersing.

French news is reporting that a demonstration of mainly peaceful protesters was infultrated by more violent people. Also, to add, I did see a shit load of plain clothes police pretending to be protesters, inciting violence and then sticking the boot in.