The French used to celebrate New Years’ Eve by setting up for glorious hangovers the next day. Now they are getting more serious.
REUTERS – At least 445 cars were torched over the night of New Year’s Eve in France, a 20 percent rise on last year, but there were relatively few clashes with police, the Interior Ministry and police said on Thursday.
Car burnings are regular occurrences in France but the registering the New Year’s Eve total has become something of a tradition since they achieved symbolic status in the violent rioting that shook many of the country’s poor suburbs in 2005.
With riots in Athens heightening worries that the economic crisis might spark a resurgence of the violence seen in the run-down “banlieues” then, 35,000 police were mobilised on New Year’s Eve, some 7,000 more than last year.
Officials were also on guard against possible attacks after five sticks of dynamite were left in a Paris department store just before Christmas by a so-far unidentified group demanding a withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.
An Interior Ministry official said that as of 6:00 a.m. (0500 GMT), 445 car burnings had been registered, against 372 at the same time a year before and police had made 288 arrests, compared with 259 on Dec. 31, 2007.
“There were few ‘contacts’ with police, gendarmes and fire services but an increase in the number of burnings for which we don’t have an explanation at the moment,” the official said.
There were around 50 burnings in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where police made 17 arrests, including four people caught while setting fire to cars.
In the southern city of Toulouse, 12 cars were burned in areas at the edge of the city limits, while in Nantes, around 10 cars were torched although police in the western city said New Year’s Eve had been “pretty calm”.
Update: The French press reported that the Interior Ministry
released a final “verified” count of 1,147 vehicles burned in France over New Year’s Eve. The number is up 30.64% from last year’s total, 878.
Hmmm, I wonder who burned all those cars. Reuters never identified who was behind all the car-burnings. Was it:
1) Prohibitionists protesting excessive wine-bibbing and general drunken revelry?
2) Neo-Amish anti-technology protestors, trying to take France back to 1699?
3) Disgruntled Huguenots who just can’t let it go?
4) Angry Belgians, demanding that French Fries be renamed “Belgian Fries.” (Belgians believe that they invented fries, and the French stole the name.) And then they’ll negotiate about “Belgian Toast” and “Belgian Kisses.”
5) None of the above. The reader is invited to submit his idea of who the suspects are.