France to deport foreigners in riots

Arson appears to be subsiding


PARIS -- The nightly ritual of arson and mayhem that has stunned cities across France appears to be waning, but the government was taking no chances yesterday, decreeing that foreign troublemakers would be expelled and authorizing local officials to impose curfews.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who was criticized for characterizing the youthful rioters as "scum," drew loud applause from lawmakers in the National Assembly when he said that foreigners among the 1,830 people arrested in the disturbances over the past two weeks, including those who were legal residents of France, would be kicked out.

Sarkozy said that 120 foreigners had been convicted and that he had ordered regional officials "to deport them from our national territory without delay, including those who have a residency visa."

After peaking over the weekend, the violence seems to be subsiding. The number of cars set ablaze overnight from Tuesday to yesterday was 617, down from more than 1,100 the night before, according to Interior Ministry figures. The number of municipalities reporting incidents declined from 226 to 116.

Law enforcement officials believe they are starting to make headway against the instigators.

An additional 1,000 police were deployed overnight, bringing the total to 11,500, according to National Police Chief Michel Gaudin. He attributed the declining violence to police sweeps and cooperation from community groups.

"The arrests are bearing fruit," said Interior Ministry spokesman Franck Louvrier. "It's clear there has been a significant drop [in violence], but we must persevere."

The rioting was sparked by an incident two weeks ago in which two immigrant teenagers who thought they were being chased by police were electrocuted when they tried to hide in a power substation in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois.

Anger toward the police spread quickly through the immigrant ghettos on the fringes of Paris, and then from city to city across France, erupting into violent protests by teens and young men mainly from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa who believe they are victims of chronic poverty, unemployment and discrimination.

This week, the government resuscitated a 50-year-old emergency law that allows local officials to impose curfews, search houses and ban public gatherings. The law was originally used to crush unrest in Algeria, a former French colony. Yesterday, about 30 municipalities across France used it to impose nighttime curfews.

The Paris police prefect, Pierre Mutz, said the capital would enforce a curfew "if the situation requires it," Agence France-Presse reported. The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, said he believed a curfew would be a "disproportionate" measure. In municipalities that have not imposed curfews, people are keeping off the streets.

"After 10 o'clock, it's like a ghost town," said Brigitte Fouvez, the deputy mayor of Bondy, a suburb of Paris near the epicenter of the rioting.

According to a poll in Le Parisien newspaper, most French support the tough security measures, with 73 percent in favor of the curfews and 86 percent saying they were shocked and upset by the riots.

Tom Hundley writes for the Chicago Tribune. Tribune news services contributed to this article.

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