France will elect a new president in May 2017. Politicians are already campaigning and debating about deficits, welfare recipients, GDP growth, and so on, but they look like puppets disconnected from the real country.
What is reality in France today?
Violence. It is spreading. Not just terrorist attacks; pure gang violence. It instills a growing feeling of insecurity in hospitals, at schools, in the streets -- even in the police. The media does not dare to say that this violence is coming mainly from Muslim gangs -- "youths," as they call the in the French media, to avoid naming who they are. A climate of civil war, however, is spreading visibly in the police, schools, hospitals and politics.
The most jolting evidence of this malaise was to see more than 500 French police officers demonstrating with police cars and motorcycles on the night of October 17, without the backing of labor unions, without authorization, on the Champs Elysées in Paris. According to the daily, Le Figaro, "the Interior Ministry was in panic," frightened by a possible coup: "Police blocked access to the Avenue Marigny, which runs beside the Presidential Palace and overlooks the Place Beauvau."
On October 18, when Jean-Marc Falcone, director-general of National Police, met the leaders of the protest, he was surrounded by hundreds of police officers urging him to resign.
The main cause of their anger seems primarily the violence often directed against police, and terrorist attacks. On the terrorist level, two policemen were stabbed to death in Magnanville in June 2016 by a Muslim extremist, Larossi Aballa. This spring, more than 300 police officers and gendarmes were injured by demonstrators. In May, police unions demonstrated in the streets of Paris to protest "anti-police hatred."
This autumn, the last straw was an attack on a police patrol in the Paris suburb of Viry-Châtillon. Four officers were injured when a group of around 15 "youths" (Muslim gang-members) swarmed their cars in the town and hurled rocks and firebombs at them. Two policemen were badly burned; one had to be placed in an induced coma. The same scenario took place a few days later: a police patrol was ambushed in another no-go zone in the "sensitive" area of Val-Fourré.
Police were also aggrieved by Bernard Cazeneuve, the minister of interior, who called the attackers "sauvageons" ("little wild ones"). Police and opposition politicians replied that the attackers were not "little wild ones but criminals who attacked police to kill."
"Police are seen as an occupying force," declared Patrice Ribeiro of the Synergie Officiers police commanders' union. "It is not surprising that violence is spiking."
On October 18, Le Figaro launched an online poll online with one question: "Do you approve the protest by policemen?" Ninety percent of the 50,000 respondents answered "yes."
Since then, police demonstrations have spread to other cities. More than a month after the start of the discontent, police officers were still protesting in every big city. On November 24, two hundred police officers demonstrated in Paris between Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe, to express their "anger." Police in civilian clothes, some wearing orange armbands, some hidden under a scarf or hood, supported by citizens, gathered in the evening at the Place de la Concorde, before walking the length of the Champs Elysée up to the Arc de Triomphe, where they formed a human chain around the monument and sang La Marseillaise (France's national anthem).
This revolt of one pillar of French society, the police, was the biggest that ever happened in modern France. Yet, virtually no one in France's mainstream media covered the event.
Tremblay-en-France (Seine-Saint-Denis close to Paris): The headmaster of the Hélène-Boucher training school was attacked on October 17 by several individuals outside the school. Some "youths" were attacking the building with firebombs, and when the headmaster tried to calm the situation, one of the "youths" answered with blows. Fifty unidentified people were involved in the incident. This was the third episode of violence to occur in the vicinity. Four days earlier, two vehicles were torched.
One month later, the daily Le Monde held a meeting with several students, The goal of this meeting was to try to understand the cause of the violence in in Tremblay. Yacine, 21, a student at the University of Paris II, said: "This is a warning. These young people did not attack the school by chance; they wanted to attack the institution, to attack the State."
Argenteuil (Val d'Oise, suburb of Paris): A teacher at the Paul Langevin primary school, was beaten up in the street, on October 17, while leading children back to school from tennis courts a kilometer from the school. After hearing the teacher raise his voice at a child, two young men stopped their car, told the teacher he was a "racist" and beat him in front of the children. According to Le Parisien, one of the attackers justified his actions by accusing the professor of "racism". "You are not the master," said the man. "The only Master is Allah".
Colomiers (Toulouse, south of France). A physical-education teacher was assaulted by a student on October 17, when the teacher tried to stop the student from leaving the school through a prohibited exit.
Calais (Pas-de-Calais): Two students at a vocational training school in Calais attacked a teacher, and one fractured the teacher's jaw and several teeth on October 14, according the local paper, Nord-Littoral. The students attacked the electrical engineering teacher because he had asked one of the students to get back to work.
Saint-Denis (Seine Saint-Denis, suburb of Paris): On October 13, a school headmaster and his deputy were beaten by a vocational student who had been reprimanded for arriving late.
Strasbourg: A mathematics teacher was brutally attacked on October 17 at the Orbelin school. The headmaster of the institution told France Bleu that a "youth," who is not a student at the school, had beaten the teacher. This was not the first time that the "youth" had entered the building. Earlier, when the teacher asked him to leave his class, the "youth" delivered several blows to the teacher's face before fleeing.
All these attackers were not terrorists, but like Islamic terrorists, they apparently wanted to destroy "attack the institution, to attack the State."
On October 16, fifteen individuals accompanying a patient sowed terror in the emergency department of Gustave Dron Hospital in Tourcoing, according to La Voix du Nord. A doctor was severely beaten; another pulled by the hair. Doctors and nurses told the newspaper they were still in shock. Said a nurse:
"Ten people forced their way into the heart of the ER. The doctors asked them to leave... When everything stopped, I realized that the ER was ravaged, patients terrorized, relatives of patients crying."
The attackers were from the district of La Bourgogne, an area essentially populated with North African immigrants. Three people were arrested.
In the same area of La Bourgogne, there was a riot on October 4. Fourteen cars were burned and 12 people arrested. The riot, which lasted for four nights, broke out after the arrest of a driver who did not stop when asked to by a policeman.
On October 14, Nadine Morano, deputy of the opposition party Les Républicains, tried physically to prevent an Algerian businessman, Rachid Nekkaz, from entering the Center of Public Finance of Toul, in the east of France. Nekkaz is known for paying fines of Muslim women arrested because they were wearing a burqa in public, banned by law since October 2010. Police came to protect the right of Mr. Nekkaz to pay the fine. An amendment to the finance law is currently under discussion to block and punish practices, like those of Nekkaz, that circumvent the law.
President François Hollande is currently under fire after the publication of a book, A President Should Not Say That... In it, he is reported to have said, "France has a problem with Islam," and "there are too many migrants in France" -- remarks Hollande claims he never made. Another quote in the book that Hollande denies saying:
"We cannot continue to have migrants who arrive without control, in the context of the attacks... The secession of territories (no go zones)? How can we avoid a partition? Because it is still what is going to happen."
President Hollande spends his time apologizing for things he never said, but should have said because they are true.
French Chinese: The French Chinese live in the same suburbs as Muslims and are attacked and harassed, to the general indifference of police.
As crime against community members has spiraled, about 50,000 ethnic Chinese staged a protest march in Paris on September 4, after the fatal mugging of a Chinese tailor.
The protesters, all of them wearing white T-shirts reading "Security for All" and waving French flags, rallied at the Place de la République. They had organized the demonstration by themselves and were not supported by the traditional "human rights" groups, which prefer to help Muslim migrants.
Public Opinion: In January 2016, Cevipof, a think tank of the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), released its seventh Barometer of Political Trust, a poll published annually to measure the values of democracy in the country, and based on interviews with 2074 people:
- What is your current state of mind? Listlessness 31%, Gloom 29%, Mistrust 28%, Fear: 10%
- Do you trust government? Not much 58%, not at all 32%
- Do you trust lawmakers? Not much 39%, not at all 16%%
- Do you trust the president? Not much 32%; not at all 38%
- Do politicians care about what the people think? Not much 42%, not at all 46%
- How democracy is working in France? Not well 43%, not well at all 24%
- Do you trust political parties? Not much 47%, not at all 40%
- Do you trust the media? Not much 48% not at all 27 %
- What do you feel about politics? Distrust 39%; disgust 33%, boredom 8%
- What do you feel about politicians? Disappointment 54%; disgust 20%
- Corruption of politicians? Yes 76%
- Too many migrants? Yes, plus tend to agree: 65%
- Islam is a threat? Yes, plus tend to agree: 58%
- Proud to be French? Yes 79%
What this poll shows is the gap between people and politicians has never been so vast.
Thibaud de Montbrial, lawyer and expert on terrorism, declared on October 19 to Le Figaro:
The term "dislocation" of French society seems appropriate. Violence against police, hospitals, attacks that multiply against schools and teachers... are attacks against pillars of the ruling domain. In other words, everything that represents state institutions (...) is now subjected to violence based on essentially sectarian and sometimes ethnic excesses, fueled by an incredible hatred of our country. We must be blind or unconscious not to feel concern for national cohesion."
Yves Mamou, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.