French Riot Questions

by Richard Brookhiser

So far as I know there have been no deaths, apart from the electrocution of the two kids which set the riots off. It is a black mark against us to say so, but by American standards doesn’t this seem peculiar? More than fifty people were killed in the Rodney King riots. By historical French standards, it is also remarkable. Cf. the Commune, the June Days. (But perhaps my standards are too old. Was anyone killed in 1968? Or over Algeria? Thousands and thousands were killed in Algeria, of course–but in France?)

Are cops wusses? Are the rioters? That doesn’t fit the profile of French authority, or of Moslem “youths.” Are the cops deliberately pulling punches so as not to make things worse? A wise policy, if it is working. If that’s what they are doing, is it working?

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