French police hopeful for calm after drop in violence

A drop in violence in France fuelled police hopes today that curfews and other security measures have curbed the country's worst…

A drop in violence in France fuelled police hopes today that curfews and other security measures have curbed the country's worst wave of urban unrest in four decades.

Authorities in Lyon banned gatherings by large groups after police fired tear gas yesterday to break up the first disturbances in a city centre since angry youths began rioting in France's impoverished suburbs on October 27th.

But cars set ablaze across France were down by a quarter on the previous night and fears that violence would grip central Paris at the weekend proved unfounded after rallies were banned in the capital. The intensity of the unrest has weakened since the government adopted emergency measures last Tuesday to crack down on violence by young people frustrated by unemployment, racism, harsh police treatment and a lack of opportunities.

The weekend had been widely seen as a test of the success of the government's crackdown on the most widespread violence since student and worker protests in May 1968. Thousands of police patrolled Paris and a ban was placed on any gathering in the city that could cause trouble.


There was no unrest in the heart of the city despite messages on Internet sites and SMS messages which police said had called for unrest.

A nursery school was set ablaze in the southern town of Carpentras and a fire bomb was thrown at a mosque in Lyon, although it did not explode. The authorities in Lyon, France's second city, imposed a curfew on minors on Saturday and Sunday night, and police there quickly dispersed rioting youths yesterday evening.

French leaders continued to take a tough stand against the rioters, even though violence appears to be waning under the emergency measures.. President Jacques Chirac's government is due to consider on Monday whether to prepare a draft law extending the measures, and the 4,000 CRS riot police deployed across the country are set to remain out in force.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy reiterated a controversial pledge to throw out foreigners caught rioting, saying the expulsions could begin at the start of this week. "If you want to live in France with a residency permit you have to abide by the laws," he said last night.

He has been criticised by rioters and some politicians for using tough language during the crisis, and was heckled by several youngsters in a crowd which gathered when he inspected security forces on the Champs Elysees yesterday evening.

The violence erupted after the deaths of two youths who were electrocuted when they took refuge in a power substation outside Paris as they apparently fled police.