PARIS — A partial Wikileaks-leaked cable written in November 2005 by the American Embassy in Paris, most likely to the Secretary of State’s office sheds light on violence in France and the government’s reaction to violence in the suburbs of Paris.
The memo recounts the analysis of the situation in the cités, or projects, by French Judge Jean-Francois Ricard, who investigates terrorism.
The residents of these areas, often immigrants, have lost respect for the French government and thus symbols of authority, such as police and firemen, have become targeted as “assassins.”
Increased unrest in the cités could also be due to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s October 2005 announcement of increased police presence in the cités, the memo says.
Gangs and radical Islamic groups have exceptional power in the cités, and have made it their goal to rid their neighborhoods of French governmental influence.
“Inhabitants developed a sense of being apart from French society, and over time, became proud of this,” the memo says.
According to the document, in a October 25, 2005 interview with the Le Monde newspaper, Sarkozy, then the Minister of the Interior of France, said 9,000 police vehicles in France had been stoned since January 2005, and “between 20 and 40” vehicles were burned every night.
Ricard, who spent time as a judge in the Parisian suburb of Bobigny, said the French government has known for 20 years that the suburbs have become dangerously anarchist and has tried and failed to integrate the suburbs into the French identity.
According to the memo, many who critique the situation blame the low socio-economic situation in the cités for the unrest, but Ricard said the real problem is not always poverty, but rather a resentment of feeling ignored by the French government.
“The combination of setting oneself apart, real and/or imagined grievances against the government of France, state inattention and the interests of gangs and other groups, including the Islamists, to accentuate this divide, has led to the current unrest,” Ricard said.
As a result, to solve the problems, the French government needs to increase its presence in these areas, Ricard says in the memo.