Paris, Nov. 9 (Reuters): France imposed emergency measures today in 38 suburbs, towns and cities including Paris and police said a wave of riots was waning despite a 13th straight night of firebombs and torched cars.
Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin published a decree invoking a 50-year-old law that gives regional government officials the power to impose nightly curfews against the rioters, mainly protesting against unemployment and racism.
A poll in Le Parisien newspaper showed 73 per cent support for the measures, with 86 per cent of those surveyed expressing outrage at violence which police said had destroyed another 617 vehicles overnight, about half the number of the night before.
“We are seeing a sharp drop in hostile acts,” the national police director, Michel Gaudin, said. Claude Gueant, an aide to interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, said the unrest appeared to have peaked. “We have reasons to believe that wisdom will prevail in the districts affected by the violence,” he told Europe 1 radio.
Major cities covered by emergency powers include Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon and Toulouse, as well as Paris suburbs where the unrest erupted on October 27 with the deaths of two youngsters apparently fleeing police. The violence ' by white youngsters as well as youths of African and Arab origin ' swiftly turned into a broader protest at racism, police treatment and poor job prospects in tough neighbourhoods, where the curfew won mixed reviews today.
“This is only going to create more problems,” said St Denis resident Paule Mambo. “They will rebel even more. Once you forbid something, you are going to flare things up even more.”
Raby Oielati, another local also of African origin, disagreed: “It’s a good thing at night. What are kids of the age of 14 doing on the streets at 11 pm at night anyway'”
Daniel Feurtet, the communist mayor of the nearby riot-hit Blanc-Mesnil district, threatened to quit. “If the prefect decides to impose a curfew in one of our areas, I’ll hand in my resignation right away,” he told Le Monde newspaper, referring to the regional government officials empowered to impose curfews.
Economists expect consumer confidence to drop because of the rioting but say the impact on economic growth and the state budget is likely be marginal if calm returns soon. They see few signs of any long-term blow to foreign direct investment.