Coronavirus outbreak exposes divided France

Coronavirus outbreak exposes divided France
A French police officer is in action in a street during clashes in Villeneuve-la-Garenne last Monday. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: When residents of France are in deprived and crowded areas of the country are now facing a surge in deaths, along with unrest on the streets, billionaires isolate themselves at luxurious hideaways on the Mediterranean during the coronavirus outbreak.

This week, hostilities erupted in the capital city’s northern banlieues (or suburbs) following accusations of police brutality and racism during the coronavirus outbreak.

Footage published on social media showed trash cans and cars set alight on roads, protesters hurling firecrackers, and police are struggling to control the crowds.

Since France has announced lockdown on March 17, it has had very different consequences for different sections of society.

According to an op-ed from several activist organizations and unions in Mediapart on Friday, the lockdown on all non-essential business has had the harshest impact on people living in poorer, more densely populated neighborhoods.

The associations — including ATTAC (Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens) — wrote that working class neighborhoods were on the front lines as essential workers.

“Yet social inequalities, already glaring, are reinforced by the management of the coronavirus and will explode with the economic and social crisis to come.”

Residents on the French Riviera, one of the country’s most exclusive gated communities, have been embroiled in controversy after it emerged that some had access to antibody testing, despite the strain on nursing homes and hospitals across the country.

Tensions flare in Parisian suburbs

A motorcyclist, who is of minority ethnicity, in the Villeneuve-la-Garenne banlieue broke his leg after police opened a car door in his path. The incident flared up tensions in Paris’s northern suburbs on last Saturday night.

Police issued a statement claiming the incident was an accident that occurred as officers got out of the car to speak with the motorcyclist, claiming 50 people then targeted police with projectiles.

Stephane Gas, the lawyer of the motorcyclist, asked for an investigation into the police’s behavior by the General Inspectorate of National Police (IGPN). He told that the police’s characterization of the incident was “all upside-down.”

He said the police had opened the car door “in the middle of the lane” without any warning.

He said: “All I can do is ask questions.”

In an area with a history of anti-police riots and police brutality — as well as the separate gilets jaunes (yellow vest) showdowns with the government over inequality — some believe the act was deliberate.

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