Tuesday, May 08, 2007

What's with France and burning cars?

(Image of a car burning in Strasbourg. Taken by Fran├žois Schnell on 5 November 2005)
They were burnt when some in France wanted to protest the widespread discrimintation in 2005. Now they are being burnt again because the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy (who infamously referred to the car-burners as "scum") has been elected as the President. Even on leaner and more tranquil days, an average of 80 cars are torched each day in France! "No other country in Europe immolates cars with the gusto and single-minded efficiency of France," says International Herald Tribune.

The same article quotes Michel Wieviorka, a French sociologist who has studied the phenomenon. He says it is "typically French" (burning cars) and goes back to the late 1970s when suburban unrest was on the rise. Parked cars made an enticing target for "gangs of young men nursing a grudge and hungry for attention". "It is very spectacular," he said. "It draws the attention of the media, and when the media comes, the politicians follow." The article goes on: "Though it is difficult to pinpoint the initial incident, the city where it first became an urban sport was Strasbourg, the Alsatian capital and home of the European Parliament. Since the 1980s, gangs there have marked New Year's Eve by stalking cars with cans of gasoline and lighters."

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