Arabs and Jews unite against 'racist' Paris police

FROM MARY DEJEVSKY

in Paris

Several hundred people turned out in the Belleville district of north- eastern Paris yesterday evening to demonstrate against what they say is police racism. Such a demonstration would be nothing unusual in the rundown Sixties suburbs outside the ring road around the capital; nor would the sort of incident - usually a request for identity papers - that gives rise to them.

But the episode that provoked this demonstration was unusual on two counts: it took place inside the city, and the charges of racism came not from the usual complainants, Turks or North African Arabs, but from Sephardic Jews, relatively recent immigrants, mainly from Tunisia. And although accounts of events in Belleville last Friday vary widely, there is agreement on one thing: Arabs and Jews were ranged side by side against the Paris police.

Belleville is an old, picturesque quarter of Paris, one of the few areas close to the centre that has not been gentrified. With its small pastel houses and quiet narrow streets, it is like Montmartre used to be. It has been sought out as a last refuge of Bohemia by writers and artists looking for ''real life''. It has a large student and young population, and first-generation immigrants: Jews and Arabs from the Maghreb, Turks, Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodians.

According to the police, the level of street crime is no worse than anywhere else in Paris. Any racial tension tends to be between North Africans and Orientals, not between Jews and Arabs or between any of these groups and the police.

Last Friday, though, for reasons not fully explained, a special police unit went to Belleville and started checking identity papers. One of those asked for his documents was a youth of 16, ferreting about under the bonnet of a car. Either he refused, or did not have his papers; the police made to take him away.

It is alleged that one of the policemen then called the youth ''a dirty Jew'', and subjected his father - who had run over from the pre- Sabbath market near by - to the same treatment. At that, it is said, market stall-holders (mostly Jews), shoppers and bystanders (mostly Arabs), came to the support of the youth, and surrounded the police and their car.

The police called for help, and a busload of reinforcements arrived. A full-scale riot ensued - 80 police against 300 or so locals - in which three people were slightly injured.

The police say they spotted known agitators in the crowd, who instigated the violence. By all accounts, quiet returned as soon as the police left, and the police have announced an inquiry. Any evidence of racism, they say, will be punished.

Nevertheless the incident has shocked Paris because it seemed to prove that police racism is still a problem and that anti-police feeling is far closer to the surface than the authorities thought.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea