Podcast: A deeper look at urban and police violence in France's banlieues

As the dust settles on a week of intense urban violence triggered by the police shooting of a young man in the northern working-class suburb of Nanterre, we look at the causes and what, if anything, has changed in these poorer, multi-racial neighbourhoods since the 2005 riots. What role has police violence played in the worsening relations between the state and banlieues residents? And the life and music of singer-poet-anarchist Léo Ferré. The fatal shooting of Nahel Merzouk by a police officer in the town of Nanterre on 27 June sparked a wave of violence, with mainly young men attacking symbols of the French state such as schools and town halls, damaging private property and looting shops and supermarkets. The unrest recalls the 2005 riots – also triggered by police violence against French youth of colour from the banlieues. Nearly 20 years later, little has changed, laments sociologist Julien Talpin. He argues that the violence during those eight nights was more political and far less random than the government and police portrayed it to be. (Listen @0')Relations between France's police force and banlieues residents have worsened since 2005. There is mistrust on both sides –  with young people seeing themselves as ready targets of racially motivated police violence and officers feeling they are disrespected and under attack. While the French government denies there is systemic racism within the police, studies have shown the contrary. Political Scientist Jacques De Maillard, who studies the police in France and elsewhere, says racial profiling and racist attitudes are part of how the police function, but neither the authorities nor officers themselves are willing to recognise this. (Listen @13'50'')Leo Ferré, one of France’s most important and admired singer-poets, died on 14 July 1993. Ever the rebel, he wrote and interpreted songs that shocked and broke taboos in the 1960s –  whether denouncing torture in Algeria or celebrating female genitalia. His raw passion on stage and way with words earned him a huge place in the ballad tradition known as French "chanson". (Listen @27'30'')Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani.Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
13 Jul English France News

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