After the election of Nicolas Sarkozy, many analysts expected unrest in the banlieus, the Muslim ghettoes that have percolated with unrest for the last several years. Overnight, the French have seen hundreds of cars burnt and hundreds of rioters arrested (via Memeorandum):
French police have arrested a total of 592 people across the country as bands of rioters protested conservative Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election victory Sunday, French media reported.
The police said a total of 730 vehicles were torched and 28 police officers were injured in violent incidents from Sunday night to Monday morning. Police fought stone-throwing rioters with tear gas, but it was not clear how many rioters were injured, according to Radio France.
Segolene Royal deserves some blame for this. She tried playing the fear card in the week before the runoff that made Sarkozy the new president, and signalled the would-be rioters that the expected response would be chaos and destruction. The French do not need much of a push to demonstrate in passionate terms, and the warning of Royal that Sarkozy’s election would lead to riots could also be seen as expert analysis — but one might think that a person vying for national leadership would have shown more discretion.
The last time these riots got started, they went on for weeks. That was partly because the initial response of the police was to hold back and let the riots burn themselves out. Sarkozy wound up having to take tougher action to get them under control. The arrests show that the French police have learned the lesson. We’ll see if the rioters have learned theirs.
UPDATE: Charles Johnson notes that AP apparently bought an attempt to downplay the violence, an effort that French authorities attempted to keep the foreign press from broadcasting the extensive nature of the riots.