- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

PARIS — Authorities stepped up security yesterday and placed restrictions on some public gatherings after tip-offs from Internet and text messages suggested “violent actions” over the weekend in central Paris.

But as France marked Armistice Day commemorating the end of World War I, calls for peace in the restive poor neighborhoods of France rang out — from demonstrators in Paris to religious leaders at a Lyon-area mosque in the southeast.

With a state of emergency in place, several hundred people gathered at the glassy Wall of Peace near the Eiffel Tower to call for an end to the unrest that erupted Oct. 27 and spread across the country.

The demonstration drew elderly Parisians and youths from its poor working-class suburbs along with curious onlookers, all engaging in heated debate over how to stem the violence and solve the causes.

Authorities have acknowledged the roots of the problem are deep-seated. Soaring unemployment, poverty and discrimination are common in towns that ring the large cities of France.

“The violence of the last 15 days expresses the frustration of 30 years of denying recognition to the populations living in these neighborhoods,” said Hassan Ben M’Barek, a spokesman for Suburbs Respect, which organized the demonstration.

He called on President Jacques Chirac and the government to listen to the youths, whose roots are in former French colonies of Africa, to better fight the “discrimination they suffer daily.”

Arson attacks that hopscotched across the country have declined in recent days. Police said early yesterday that 463 cars were torched, down from 482 the previous night.

The unrest has decreased since France imposed a state of emergency Wednesday that empowers regions to impose curfews and conduct house searches. Prefect Pierre Soubelet of the Landes region in the southwest ordered a curfew for minors last night in certain towns, the sixth region to use the extraordinary powers.

Authorities bolstered security in Paris, deploying truckloads of riot police as Mr. Chirac rode in an open jeep down the Champs-Elysees to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark Armistice Day.

More than 700 police were brought into the capital to bolster security, raising the full deployment to 2,220.

Paris police headquarters banned gatherings of “a nature that could provoke or encourage disorder” from 10 a.m. today to 8 a.m. tomorrow.

The French anti-racism group MRAP, which opposes the curfew and the state of emergency, said it still planned to demonstrate against the measures today in Paris.

From a mosque in Saint-Fons, in the Rhone region near Lyon, the prayer leader, Moncef Bahloul, read out a call for peace issued by representatives of the local Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.

“To the young tempted by destructive violence, we say: violence is not the language to express your difficulties.”

The unrest erupted after two teenagers in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, were fatally shocked while hiding out in a power substation to escape police.

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