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France 2005 - Civil Unrest, Rioting and Curfews

For three weeks in October and November 2005 the world watched with increasing astonishment as deep-rooted resentment and anger, fuelled by long-standing social disenfranchisement and ethnic divisions, was brutally unleashed throughout France. Initially the violence erupted in Paris's suburbs but outbreaks of fire and destruction quickly spread to every major city. Events were widely reported as they happened. The chronology below was summarised from BBC News reports after each night of rioting.

25th October 2005: the warning signs

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy visits the Paris suburb of Argenteuil to see how new measures against urban violence are working, but is greeted with a bombardment of stones and bottles. He declares that crime-ridden neighbourhoods ought to be "cleaned with a power hose" and describes violent elements as "gangrene" and "rabble".

27th October 2005: 1st night

Two teenaged boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore, are electrocuted after climbing into an electrical sub-station in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois. Locals say the boys were attempting to hide from police, but the police deny this. Nonetheless, news of their deaths triggers riots in the area. Arsonists destroy 15 vehicles.

29th October 2005: 3rd night

A silent march is organised in Clichy-sous-Bois with mourners of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore wearing T-shirts that proclaim: 'dead for nothing'. Unrest has spread across the Seine-Saint-Denis administrative region.

30th October 2005: 4th night

Divisions emerge within the French Government. Nicolas Sarkozy pledges "zero tolerance" of rioting and sends police reinforcements to Clichy-sous-Bois. Meanwhile, Azouz Begag, a junior minister in charge of equal opportunities, condemns the use of the word "rabble". There is further anger when a tear gas grenade, like those used by riot police, explodes at a Clichy-sous-Bois mosque. 15 cars are set on fire.

1st November 2005: 6th night

The French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, meets the families of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore and pledges a full investigation into their deaths. Rioting spreads from Seine-Saint-Denis to three other regions in the Paris area. At least 15 cars are torched overnight in Aulnay-sous-Bois. Police fire rubber bullets and arrest 34 people.

2nd November 2005: 7th night

Rioters ransack a police station at Aulnay-sous-Bois; police report coming under fire from at least two live bullets at La Courneuve; 177 vehicles are burnt. Police report incidents involving gangs of youths in the suburban departments of the Val-d'Oise, Seine-et-Marne and Yvelines. There are reports of petrol bombs being thrown at a police station in the Hauts-de-Seine.

3rd November 2005: 8th night

A 56-year-old disabled bus passenger suffers severe burns when a Molotov cocktail is thrown on board in the northern suburb of Sevran. Shots are reportedly fired at riot police in various parts of Paris, slightly wounding five officers. More than 100 firefighters are called upon to fight a blaze at a carpet warehouse in Aulnay-sous-Bois; another warehouse is also set alight in Le Blanc Mesnil area. 27 buses are burned at Trappes depot in Yvelines, west of Paris. Police report 519 vehicles burned and 78 people arrested in the Paris region alone. Violence spreads beyond Paris: east, to the city of Dijon, and to the south and west, with 400 vehicles burnt. Unrest also flares in the Rouen area of Normandy and in the Bouches-du-Rhone region near Marseilles in the south.

4th November 2005: 9th night

The Chief Prosecutor of Paris, Yves Bot, reports that 897 vehicles were torched overnight, including 656 in the area around Paris. Police report that they have arrested 253 people. Approximately 1,300 police are deployed in the Seine-Saint-Denis area. Two nurseries, one in Bretigny-sur-Orgeand and another in Yvelines, are set on fire along with a school in Seine-et-Marne. A blaze in an underground car park in Suresnes, Hauts-de-Seine, destroys at least 36 vehicles. In Meaux, Seine-et-Marne, an emergency services vehicle is attacked and burnt. Car torchings are reported in the cities of Dijon, Marseille and Rouen, with violent attacks in Nice, Lille, Rennes and Toulouse.

5th November 2005: 10th night

Police report 1,295 vehicle burnings and 312 arrests as the unrest spreads to Strasbourg, Toulouse and Nantes. Four cars are torched on Place de la Republique in central Paris along with others in the central 17th arrondisement. A McDonald's is rammed by a car and almost totally burnt out in Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris. Five nursery classrooms in Grigny, south of Paris, are destroyed by fire, while a primary school is also slightly damaged. A recycling facility is attacked in the Essone area, near Paris, with at least 35 vehicles torched and 800sq.m of paper going up in flames.

6th November 2005: 11th night

President Jacques Chirac meets with his government and promises to restore order. Overnight across France 1,408 vehicles are burnt and there are 395 arrests. In Grigny, two police officers are injured by gunfire in what police describe as an "ambush". They are taken to hospital with wounds to the leg and throat.

7th November 2005: 12th night

Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec, 61, dies as a result of the injuries he received during an assault in the town of Stains, Seine-Saint-Denis. In the French media he is portrayed as the first fatality of the riots. 17 cars are reported to have been burned in Paris overnight. More than 800 cars are torched around the country. Police arrest 143 people. A creche is burned down and at least two cars are set alight in Lille in the north. Dozens of cars are set on fire in Lyon and Grenoble, and two schools are torched in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie regions north of Paris.

8th November 2005: 13th night

The cabinet authorises a range of emergency powers to tackle the unrest, under which local authorities can impose curfews and restrict people's movements. It is the first time that the 1955 law has been implemented on mainland France. 1,173 cars are burnt overnight and 330 arrests made, with 12 police officers injured. The entire public transport network is closed down in the central-eastern city of Lyon after a Molotov cocktail is thrown at a train station. A gas-powered bus explodes in the suburbs of the south-western city of Bordeaux after it is hit by a Molotov cocktail. Youths in the city of Toulouse throw firebombs at police and set fire to cars.

9th November 2005: 14th night

Emergency powers come into force across more than 30 French towns and cities, including Strasbourg, Lille, Nice, Marseille, Le Havre, Toulouse, Rouen, Amiens, Dijon and the Paris suburbs. Amiens, in the north, is the first city to impose a curfew. Police report a drop in the level of violence, although incidents remain widespread across France. Youths clash with police in the southern city of Toulouse and there are reports of sporadic violence elsewhere.

11th November 2005: 16th night

The city of Paris announces a ban on all public meetings likely to provoke disturbances, which will run from 10:00am on 12th November through to 8:00am on 13th November.

12th November 2005: 17th night

Police fire tear gas at rioters on Place Bellecour in Lyon, just hours before a curfew begins for minors. It is the first rioting in a major city centre. Two people are arrested.

13th November 2005: 18th night

Police in Lyon follow Paris in banning all public meetings in the city until 8:00pm. Authorities report that the situation across France as a whole is "much calmer". 370 cars are burned overnight, 150 fewer than the previous night. There are disturbances in Toulouse and St Etienne. The European Union offers €50m to help France recover from the riots.

14th November 2005: 19th night

President Jacques Chirac - in his first major speech since rioting began - pledges to create opportunities for young people in an effort to prevent any resurgence of urban violence. 162 cars are burned overnight.

15th November 2005: 20th night

163 cars are burnt across France - almost down to the levels seen before the riots began last month.

16th November 2005: 21st night

Police report that 98 vehicles are torched overnight, marking a "return to a normal situation everywhere in France". The authorities in the Rhone region, which covers Lyon and nearby south-eastern towns, lift a curfew on minors after just eight cars are destroyed overnight.

And so the veil descends once more on the social problems of France ..... for now.

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