From the Associated Press we have an account of "bands of youths" rioting at the Gare du Nord, a major Paris train station. In this story, as it ran on yahoo.com, we read " a man without a Metro ticket punched two inspectors" and "Youths also attacked the inspectors and later turned on police patrolling the station.."
Then a "a standoff ensued between officers and some 100 [uncharacterized]youths."
My first reaction, was the "youths" could very likely have been Algerian/North Africans. The Gare du Nord district is home to a dense pocket of North Africans and was an area where some of the biggest rioting happened last year.
The French press has a long and sordid history of refusing to tell the whole story when racial clashes happen. Let's hope American media doesn't follow. Previous examples are when the same bland "youth" (in that case Arabs) attacked Jews on the Champs-Elysees, or when the mysterious "youth" (North Africans) went on a barbaric years-long rampage of gang-rape in Paris. It became so common sociologists later referred to the atrocities as "rituals." This was the practice of "tournantes" ("take-your-turn" rapes) as first identified in the late 1980s. The horrors were harder to ingore when a young French Muslim woman, Samira Bellil, came forward with an autobiographical expose called Dans L'Enfer Des Tournantes (In the hell of gang-rapes). In hiding the racial and sub-cultural components of the story, the media failed to truly be a voice for the voiceless and failed to put all the uncomfortable issues out on the table. That was left to the victims themselves. (And by the way, what's more "uncomfortable"? Gang-rape or discussing 'sensitive' racial matters?)
The real dead-end, is when unsubstantiated belief in the equality of all cultures (and subcultures) -even those that advocate rape, "honor" killings, summary executions, amputations, and so on, - causes media to self-censor, so the story appears more in line with the belief. I'm not saying that is what's happening here, just that it is a real danger.
Other versions of the Associated Press story, (which is obviously being edited differently by different publications) include this passage:
The train lines from Gare du Nord radiate out to the same suburbs north of Paris where three weeks of rioting erupted in 2005. That violence was born of pent-up anger – especially among youths of Arab and African origin – over years of high
unemployment and racial inequalities.
Youths at the station said Tuesday's clashes started when police manhandled a young person of North African
origin. Some claimed that the youth's arm was broken in the confrontation.
Zidou said the violence had echoes of the riots in 2005. “They never finished,” he said. “It slowed down a bit, but it was never over.” Another commuter, Guy Elkoun, said: “There's always a feeling of insecurity in this train station ... I knew this could happen someday.”
We get needed context from Reuters as it appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald:
"French riot police clashed with youths at one of the main railway stations in Paris on Tuesday as tensions simmering since mass unrest in 2005 flared up ahead of next month's presidential election.... A Reuters correspondent on the scene said the youths, many black or of apparently immigrant origin, threw plastic bottles, flowerpots and cans at the police, while frustrated rush hour commuters, unable to catch their trains, also milled around."