1. A slow deterioration of the relationship between the police and the inhabitants
The death of Nahel, 17, killed while trying to escape a police check in Nanterre (Hauts-de-Seine), set the country ablaze. In 2005, the ground was the same: the death of two young people, Zyed and Bouna, electrocuted while fleeing the police in Seine-Saint-Denis. “THE poor relations between young people and the police undermine their confidence in republican institutions”, explains the sociologist Sebastian Roché, research director at the CNRS (1). According to him, this degradation went through three stages: when Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, encouraged the use of weapons such as flash-balls as early as 2002; when he renounced the “local police” in 2003 to increase repression; and when the 2017 law expanded the legal framework for the use of a firearm by the police in the event of refusal to comply. “Since 2017, the number of fatal shootings on moving vehicles has increased fivefold compared to 2012-2017,” he notes.
2. Incomplete efforts on city policy
Since 2005, rehabilitation plans for so-called sensitive neighborhoods have followed one another with billions of euros. Since 2017, CP and CE1 classes in sensitive areas have not exceeded twelve students to allow for more progressive and personalized teaching. However, “the situation is not fundamentally improving”, notes a Senate report of July 19, 2022. Fewer public services, including safety and health, higher unemployment, most lights are red. “The tens of billions dumped by the National Agency for Urban Renewal are useful, notes Bruno Pomart (2), a former Raid policeman who works for dialogue in the districts. But it is not enough to build new buildings and uplift.” In 2005, the government reacted by financing an ambitious renovation plan. This time, the Interministerial Committee for Cities meeting on June 30 made no announcement.
3. The amplifying effect of social networks during the riots
This is the big difference with 2005. “They are accelerating the spread of violence, which immediately spread to the whole of France”, abounds the sociologist Sebastian Roché. On June 27, young Nahel was killed at 8:15 a.m. From the first night, a hundred cities were set ablaze according to the Ministry of the Interior. In 2005, it took nine days to experience contagion outside Île-de-France. “Social networks and smartphones increase the impact of riots tenfold”, explains Bruno Pomart. They also galvanize the participants. Eighteen years ago, the events were lived the next day, on the television news; this time, they were in real time. What to want to do better than his neighbor, Emmanuel Macron even evoking “a mimicry of violence, which leads in the youngest to a form of exit from reality”.
4. Faster and stronger violence than that of 2005
The violence escalated. In 2005, about 250 police and gendarmes were injured, and nearly 10,000 vehicles and 200 public buildings burned in three weeks of incidents. Figures exceeded this year in six days. For the third night of riots alone, the Ministry of the Interior counted 1,350 vehicles and 266 buildings burned. An aggravation that some had already perceived during recent social movements (yellow vests, black blocks, demonstrations against pension reform or against the “megabasins” in Sainte-Soline, etc.). “Violence of a nihilistic tone is becoming commonplace”, explains Olivier Galland, sociologist specializing in youth at the CNRS (3). In this regard, the movement of yellow vests may have contributed to a form of “disinhibition.” A break from 2005.
5. Faced with the riots, a divided political response
“Are you tired of this bunch of scum? Well, we’ll get rid of them.” Two days before the outbreak of the 2005 riots, Nicolas Sarkozy, still Minister of the Interior, did not hesitate to use shock phrases. But he was the only one: the political class as a whole then united to call for calm. In 2023, the one-upmanship is essential. While a pot launched by the far right “in support of the policeman’s family” has already raised more than a million euros, Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France insoumise) refuses to call for calm. “That’s not the question for a politician,” he said on July 2. A polarization which mirrors that of the National Assembly, where the extremes were less powerful in 2005.
(1) Author of The unfinished nation, Youth facing school and the police, Ed. Grasset, 400 p. ; €22.50.
(2) Author of Cop elite in the cities, Ed. Decitre, 208 p. ; €19.80.
(3) Note from the CNRS, “The ingredients of the 2005 riots are still there”.
What is the outcome of the third night of riots in France?
On June 30, in a single night:
- 1350 burned vehicles
- 266 buildings burned