Bus strike in Paris after night of violence

Buses have been a target for the frustration of banlieue youth for a long time, they are frequently stoned and drivers are often threatened and insulted. On Wednesday night there were a series of incidents of violence.

Submitted by jef costello on October 28, 2006

In Nanterre 5 or 6 youths got onto a bus at around 10pm and began to pour petrol onto the seats. The driver and passengers got off before it was set alight. Another bus was set alight in Montreuil. In Grande-Borne, (near to Grigny where a bus was burnt on Sunday afternoon) up to 80 youths began attacking passing vehicles with projectiles and attempted to set a bus alight. Police arrived and also came under attack, several police were severely damaged before the police were able to drive back the crowd using tear gas. The police were unable to enter the estate until around 10:30 and the area didn’t quieten down until near midnight.

There were reports of burnt cars and clashes between police and youths across Paris that evening. In one case a group of youths crashed a car into the roundabout at the entrance of an estate in Tarterêts (Corbeil-Essonnes) and then set it alight. Police arriving at the scene report being bombarded with projectiles, although no injuries were reported.

The bus drivers’ strike began on Thursday, on the routes serving the affected areas. French workers have the “droit de retrait” but this has not been recognised in this case by the authorities and the drivers have been threatened with disciplinary action. The drivers claim that there have been numerous instances of threats and the stoning of buses has become routine. One bus driver was threatened with being burnt alive. The bus drivers recognise that the inhabitants of the banlieues rely upon them, but are also worried about their safety. The idea of giving buses police escorts, or placing officers has been proposed although some drivers believe associating with police will lead to worse violence.

Meetings have been called between the police and transport authorities with Nicolas Sarkozy promising “a mobilisation of all available forces”. Police have warned that further violence is likely, claiming to have discovered reserves of petrol bombs, iron bars and stones across Paris near to bus routes. Police are also associating the escalation of attacks on buses with the “increasingly sophisticated” methods use to attack them. Although the recent attack on two CRS officers was revealed to have been spontaneous, the police still fear ambushes and are responding with a mixture of increased caution and increased violence.

Wednesday 25th October