Calm follows storm of riots over Grenoble police shooting

 

CALM PREVAILED in Grenoble after the funeral of a suspected armed robber who was shot dead by police last week, allaying fears that his burial could reignite the violence that shook the southeastern French city last weekend.

The killing of Karim Boudouda (27), during a shootout which followed a casino robbery sparked three nights of rioting in the suburb of Villeneuve, where police were fired at and dozens of cars were torched.

Two cars were burned and bottles were thrown at police on Thursday night and early yesterday morning, but an appeal for calm by the local imam and Mr Boudouda’s family appeared largely to have been heeded.

As order returned to the streets, however, crime continued to dominate the political agenda after a week in which serious disturbances also took place in a quiet town in the Loire valley.

Riots broke out in Saint-Aignan, a town of just 3,400 people, last Sunday after members of the Traveller community reacted to the death of a young man at the hands of the police, with a violent attack on the local police station.

The unrest in Grenoble and Saint-Aignan prompted president Nicolas Sarkozy to declare that the state was engaged in a “war against traffickers and delinquency” and that the state would not back down in its “relentless fight” against criminals.

He then sacked the prefect for Isère, the department that includes Grenoble, and replaced him with Eric Le Douaron, a senior police officer whom Mr Sarkozy knows from his time as interior minister. It is the second time in three months that Mr Sarkozy has nominated a police officer as prefect. In April, he appointed Christian Lambert, the former head of an elite commando-style unit, as prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis, which includes some of the French capital’s poorest suburbs.

The latest move was criticised by the opposition, with Socialist Party deputy Manuel Valls saying Mr Sarkozy’s belligerent language belied the “fairly patent failure” of his security policies.

Daniel Vaillant, who served as interior minister under the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, sharply criticised Mr Sarkozy for “assuming a power that he doesn’t have” by replacing two prefects, as it was for the prime minister or the interior minister to nominate individuals to these posts.

Prefects, who act as the state’s highest representative in a department, are normally career civil servants.

Anti-racism and human rights groups have also been critical of the president after remarks he made in the wake of the Saint-Aignan violence, about “the problems posed by the behaviour of certain people among the Traveller and Roma communities”.

The Human Rights League accused the president of “stigmatising” Roma and Travelling people and making them “scapegoats” for wider security problems.

The generic French term gens du voyage, or Travellers, include tsiganes(gypsies) whose families came to France over many centuries; manouches, who came from Germany in the 19th century; Spanish gitanesand the more recently arrived Roma people.