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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

French politicians shine at passing the buck over Paris football riots

If you've been following the news this week, then you've probably seen the "celebrations that turned sour" when violence broke out on the streets of Paris as the city's football team Paris-Saint-Germain and its fans marked the club's first league title in 19 years.

The contrast couldn't have been greater to similar parades organised in England and Spain for their championship-winning teams Manchester United and Barcelona.

And although not all was apparently as calm in Manchester as perhaps the French media portrayed it, the scenes were nothing to match those that occurred in Paris.

It was well documented because so many French media outlets had teams "on the ground" reporting "en direct" almost as though they were willing, or at least expecting, something to happen.

And as we all know, it did.

But while the French media was pretty thorough in covering the whole debacle as it happened, it hasn't had as much success persuading the country's politicians to take their part of the blame for what happened.

Manuel Valls (screenshot from TF1 news)

The interior minister, Manuel Valls, appeared on radio and television, "condemning the violence" (well, he's hardly going to praise it now, is he?) and saying it showed that football, and in particular in the capital, was "ill".

And when asked by the mild-mannered and inoffensive anchor Gilles Bouleau on Tuesday's edition of TF1's evening news whether he, as minister in charge of the "forces of law and order" was willing to take his share of the responsibility for what had happened just as Frédéric Thiriez, the president of the French league Frédéric Thiriez had done, Valls delivered a sermon befitting of a politician eager to pass the buck.

"There were enough police present," he insisted, refusing to accept any blame even though viewers had just seen footage of riot police abandoning their positions when some of the worst scenes of violence broke out and deciding not to intervene when a coach carrying tourists was attacked.

"It was a minority of vandals intent on causing trouble who set others off," he maintained.

"There's violence in our society and there were those present who didn't just want to spoil the celebrations. They were there to fight, to steal and to vandalise."

Faced with a politician "singing" from such a well-prepared hymn sheet, Bouleau clearly had no chance of gaining even the slightest admission of accountability.

Mind you, the team on "La Matinale" on Canal + fared no better the following morning with the sports minister Valérie Fourneyron, even though collectively they were certainly more pugnacious in their questioning - or at least they tried to be.

Fourneyron refused point blank to respond directly to sports journalist Sylvère-Henry Cissé when he said it was hard to believe that "nobody could have anticipated trouble" (and thereby implying politicians had some part to play in what happened) given the number of pre-celebration preparations that had taken place.

"Those responsible for what happened were the vandals themselves who transformed the celebrations into a riot," she said, trotting out exactly the same "explanation" as Valls had done the previous evening and talking over Cissé's attempts to get her admit at least partial responsibility.

Instead Fourneyron preferred to repeat (from nine minutes and 24 seconds in the video below) that the "celebrations had been spoilt" and the penalties for those who had been arrested would have to be harsh.

Yes, it really was just like watching and hearing Valls II.

As the show's host Ariane Massenet summed it up, for Fourneyron (and by extension Valls and the government) what had happened was solely the fault of those vandals who had caused the violence. End of story.

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