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Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group

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France reacts differently to police shootings

Jul 17, 2023

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Recent riots in France were sparked by a tragic incident on June 27. During a routine traffic stop in a Parisian suburb, a 17-year-old of Algerian-Moroccan descent was fatally shot by a police officer. These events are reminiscent of similar occurrences in the United States, where tensions between law enforcement and marginalized communities have also led to protests and unrest.

Straight Arrow News contributor Larry Lindsey explores the role of identity in the differing reactions to police brutality in France and America.

It would be nice to think that France is just a kinder and gentler place than America, where race is really not an issue. Instead, that’s not the case. It’s more how people think about it.

France has an empire. It had an empire into the 1960s. In fact, its empire included roughly half of the entire continent of Africa. The French government wouldn’t rule those places, was not particularly known for its benevolence. In fact, even though the empire is no more, the French government does not hesitate to intervene in its former empire whenever there’s trouble. And France had an actual civil war just 60 years ago, based on its empire that was dissolving. It had to do with the Algerian War, which was a bloodbath, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed. And it led to riots and even attempted assassinations in France itself.

So this is not exactly a clean history. It’s not the history that’s different, it’s the attitude. French police are more violent. They were violent, not just in this case but in the recent protests of the Yellow Jackets who were basically retirees protesting. There were recently riots about President Macron’s efforts to cut pensions. And whenever the police go in to suppress domestic violence, they do not hesitate to use force much more than in the U.S.

Why do two otherwise similar countries view this issue so much differently? I don’t know. I don’t know which is better. But it does go back to a fundamentally different attitude about the role of one’s identity.

In France, you’re French regardless; that’s less and less true here in America.

It’s a sad but very familiar story. A 17 year old North African youth was shot as he fled a traffic stop. The this was in Paris or in a suburb just outside of Paris. The car he was driving had Polish plates. tragedy, but in France, no one is taking a knee. Specially not the politicians. President McCrone did say that the shooting was inexcusable and inexplicable. But what inexplicable means is there wasn’t any convenient buzzword like systemic racism that could explain it because apparently there is no systemic racism in France. He then followed up by flooding the streets with riot police, calling the riots and unacceptable manipulation of the death of a teenager. Curfews were imposed not suspended as they were here during COVID In order to allow the protest to continue, and it’s across the board. McCrone socialist predecessor as president actually authorized police to shoot at traffic stops in 2017. The media also had a very different reaction. France’s station, Europe one got the arrest file, no doubt it was leaked. The gentleman had no convictions, but as someone said, it wasn’t for lack of trying. He’s had 15 arrests, drug possessions, selling drugs, driving cars with false license plates, driving cars with no insurance, resisting arrest, assaulting officers, etc. Now, that doesn’t mean he deserves to be shot. It just means he’s just not a completely innocent individual as one might think sometimes in the US, and the public attitude is different to there were funds set up for both the policeman’s family and for the family of the deceased four times as much money went into the fun for the policeman’s family. As for the police, to say that the reaction in France is different than the reaction of similar events in America is an understatement. Why is that? Well, it goes back deep into French history. One of the ideas of the French Revolution was the universality of the French identity. There is no such thing in French language is what we would call a hyphenated Frenchman. We have hyphenated Americans all the time were hyphenated by race, or hyphenated by gender, or hyphenated by sexual preference. But French people are all French people regardless, and the press simply doesn’t treat them as different in their descriptions. Not only that, you can even study if the police are treating different groups differently, why there is no data on race or religion collected in the police files. They’re all the same. They are all on hyphenated French. Well, what does this mean about France? It would be nice to think that France is just a kinder and gentler place than America were races is really not an issue. Instead, that’s not the case. It’s more how people think about it. France has a Empire. It had an empire into the 1960s. In fact, its empire included roughly half of the entire continent of Africa. The French government wouldn’t rule those places, was not particularly known for its benevolence. In fact, even though the Empire is no more, the French government does not hesitate to intervene in its former empire whenever there’s trouble. And France had an actual civil war just 60 years ago, based on its empire that was dissolving. It had to do with the Algerian War, which was a bloodbath in which hundreds of 1000s of people were killed. And it led into a riots and even attempted assassinations in France itself. So this is not exactly a clean history. It’s not the history that’s different. It’s the attitude. French police are more violent. They were violent, not just in this case. But in the recent protests of the Yellow Jackets who were basically retirees protesting. There were recently riots about President McCrone efforts to cut pensions. And whenever the police go in to suppress domestic violence, they do not hesitate to use force much more than in the US. Why do two otherwise similar countries view this issue so much differently? I don’t know. I don’t know which is better. But it does go back to a fundamentally different attitude about the role of one’s identity in France, your French regardless, that’s less and less true here in America. 

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