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French authorities notify ‘safe spaces’ to keep cars from being set ablaze on NYE, here is how the arson ‘tradition’ started

For decades, on New Year's Eve, while the residents stay inside their homes, hooligans take to the roads in France and set hundreds of cars on fire. There have been recurrent incidents of car burning in France over the years, and it has taken the shape of an annual event.

On December 28, it was reported that the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg issued a map that contained information on the areas where people could safely park their cars on New Year’s Eve to save them from getting burnt by the hooligans. The reason behind issuing a list of safe places is that every year in France, hundreds of cars are burnt on New Year’s Eve. Despite the deadly Covid-19 wave in France last year, 874 cars were reportedly burnt on a single night. However, unofficial reports claimed over 1,000 cars were burnt.

Map issued by Eurometropolis showing safe places to park cars. Source: Twitter (Translated using Google Translation Service on Twitter)

Investigative Journalist Amy Mek said in a tweet, “Make Your Predictions! France’s traditional ‘burning of the infidel’s cars” on New Year’s Eve is starting to take place. Last year, 1,000+ vehicles were set on fire on the night of December 31. Will France’s cultural enrichers break last year’s record?”

In a follow-up tweet, she shared the map issued by the Eurometropolis and said, “Happy New Year from Sharia France! Strasbourg even released a map instructing people where they could hide their cars on New Year’s Eve. The city is implemented a major plan for guarded parking lots and parking bans on compromised “enriched” streets.”

The history of burning cars on New Year’s Eve in France

For decades, on New Year’s Eve, while the residents stay inside their homes, hooligans take to the roads in France and set hundreds of cars on fire. There have been recurrent incidents of car burning in France over the years, and it has taken the shape of an annual event. The level of vandalism reached the point that the authorities have reduced publicising these events to avoid competition in different areas. Reports suggest that in 2019, 1,457 cars were burnt, while 1,290 cars were set ablaze in 2018.

Going further back, in 2014, 1,067 cars were reported burnt down. The vandalism and car burning incidents find their roots in Strasbourg, adjoining the France border with Germany, in the 1980s. In the 1990s, the tradition reached its peak.

As per reports, media coverage of the incidents encourages the youth from rival housing estates to indulge in similar incidents to grab the attention of the media. According to the then government official Patrice Magnier, there was a direct correlation between the increase in car burning incidents and ‘media focus.’ The police officials and local government bodies failed to curtail the practice, thereby leading to a new peak between 2005-2009.

2005 riots and a precedent for car burning

In the infamous riots of October 2005, more than 8000 vehicles were burned by the rioters. The perpetrators reportedly included individuals of African and Arab heritage. The riots were triggered following the death of two teenagers in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois in Paris that lasted about three weeks. The riots involved setting buildings ablaze and frequent confrontations of rioters with the police, thereby forcing the French government to declare a state of Emergency.

While 879 vehicles were gutted in fire in 2007, the numbers shot up to 1147 by 2009. Arson cases were much higher in Paris-area housing projects (422 cars burnt) compared to well-policed Parisian intra-muros (12 cars burnt). It was observed that racially tense and poor neighbourhoods in Strasbourg, Lille, Toulouse and Nantes had witnessed higher instances of vehicle arson.

Arson as a way of French dissent

Car burning has now evolved to represent France’s way of ‘protest’. It has been observed that most people involved in arson are poor and often justify their actions as ‘defiance’ for lack of economic opportunities. Besides, such incidents are easy ways to pick up confrontations with law enforcement authorities and make quick bucks through insurance. Besides New Year’s eve, such incidents are also witnessed during France’s National holiday on July 14 (also called Bastille Day).

“While annual figures may fluctuate, they’ve generally swelled since the late 1970s, when French suburban youths first started burning cars as a way to get the attention of society, the media and politicians,” reported Time Magazine. It further added, “Later, the practice became an ambush tactic to draw law and fire authorities to the scene — where gangs then attack them. Now the act works as a manner of daily protest against alienation, discrimination and the indifference of more affluent French society.”

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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