On the first anniversary of the riots which spread across Europe against the police brutality, racism and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants, French youth have again brought these issues to the forefront.
On October 27th, French youth from poor suburbs of France rioted against the state oppression which last year claimed the life of two teenagers and set off country wide uprisings against racism, chronic unemployment and poverty faced by African and Arab immigrants in France. On October 27, 2005 two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore were electrocuted after climbing into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Friends and locals say that this was an attempt to hide from police.
Just two days earlier, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy says that a Paris suburb mostly comprised of immigrants of African and Arab descent says that crime-ridden neighbourhoods should be "cleaned with a power hose".
Responding to this continued violence and oppression, youth from across working class neighbourhoods in France took to the streets to express their unwillingness to live under these conditions. In the two week urban uprising that ensued, more than 10,000 cars were set ablaze and 300 buildings firebombed.
The uprisings spread across France and even into Belgium
and Germany, vividly connecting the common issues faced by immigrants of various nations living in Europe. These uprisings were successful in bringing the world’s attention to the condition of immigrant people in Europe and in providing an important lesson to the emerging movements for immigrant rights which have sprung up all over Europe and North America.
Not surprisingly, the French governments’ pledge to address the core issues have largely been empty words and little has changed for working people. Nevertheless, their example and that of the Latino movement in the United States which organized a work, school, buying stoppage and mass demonstration last year in the United States demonstrates that the rights of working people can only be upheld by the people militantly asserting themselves.
As we head into a recession, Harper’s government is likely to try and increase its targeting of immigrant workers in order to distract and divide working people as a whole. People need to unite in order to prevent this from happening, and assert that the right of all working people to jobs, education and inclusion is non-negotiable!