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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: "Comment peut-on briser ainsi les vies?"

by Mina Kaci

"How can you Destroy Lives Like That?"

Translated Wednesday 27 September 2006, by Henry Crapo

Cachan: The families taking refuge in the city grade school have to deal with multiple provocations by the police. This is an illustration of the relentlessness of Nicolas Sarkozy.

It was about noon on Tuesday [1]. Policemen appear as if from nowhere, flatten a black man against a wall a few steps away from a primary school next to the Belle-Image grade school in Cachan, in the Val-de-Marne, where immigrant families are lodged for already one month, now. The man keeps shouting, "I have my papers. Take care, I’m a sick man." But the forces of the law continue to manhandle him, while men and women, their attention caught by the shouting, try to intervene, not bothering to defend themselves against the helmeted CRS (national anti-riot police), who do not hesitate to charge them, almost at point-blank range. A baby on his mother’s back receives tear gas directly in his face, as the gas spreads over the over-excited little group, revolted by the police provocation.

For an hour, on the verge of a riot.

Tears flow, not only because of the toxic products. Indignation shows on their faces, on each person, black or white, militant, from associations, or elected officials. Her tricolored chest band is not enough to protect the regional counsellor Malika Zédiri (PCF, French Communist Party) from the police brutality. She seems particularly blinded by the gas. In the tumult, two women, one of whom is the delegate Safie Ba, receive blows. A bit later, firemen transport six persons to the hospital. For an hour, one is on the verge of a riot. Men throw bottles of water and other projectiles, not managing to hit the police, who are again ready to charge.

The women lament at the top of their voices, "Why do they treat us like cattle?"

Relentlessness of the Minister of the Interior

Bit by bit the CRS line retreats, until no longer visible. Calm returns, but the suffering persists. The mayor of Cachan (PS, Socialist Party), Jean-Yves Le Bouillonec, tries to convince some here, others there, to reenter the grade school. "I have promises from the prefect that the arrests of those without papers will not take place here, nor in the rue des Deux-Frères. But everywhere else, in the neighborhood of the grade school, the Minister of the Interior has given the order to arrest any person not possessing the proper papers.

Alerted by the network, other departmental or national elected officials, Communist or Socialist, arrived on the scene. Artists also, among whom were Jamel Debbouze, Mathieu Kassowitz or Josiane Balesko. Marie-George Buffet, national secretary of the PCF, left the National Assembly "as soon as I heard the news". Indignant, she took position in favor of the proposition of Joseph Rossignol, mayor (DVG, a union of parties on the Left) of Limeil-Brévannes, to welcome families on the site of the Commission for Atomic Energy (CEA). All the parties concerned, with the exception of the prefect, organize behind this proposition. "It’s the wisest, the most humanitarian, approach. We have to think of the children. But they’re up against the obstinacy of the Minister of the Interior", emphasizes Marie-George Buffet. She launches an appeal, in the wake of her visit, to all organizations that are members of the unitary collective for the counter-attack by the Left (see below)

Make an example of Cachan

"Scandalized" by the police violence and by the "relentlessness" of Nicolas Sarkozy, the communist leader holds that Sarkozy "wants to make Cachan an example, to show he will not give up, even if it means that women have to be wounded. They are playing toreador. One gets the feeling that they are not open to humanitarian questions. They want to make the children hostages to their politicians’ politics."

The minister and presidential candidate was glorified for having "escorted home" ten ex-squatters from Cachan, omitting to mention that most of them were thus separated from their families. That evening, before Nicolas Sarkozy strutted on the television, a woman sobbed before the agents of the commissariat of Cachan. At her side, her four-year-old son and her daughter, who was celebrating her first year at the grade school, watched in fear as the crowd cried out their father’s name. Silakona Soukouna was captured by the police during the afternoon when he went to pick up his child at the nursery school. A citizen of Mali, without French papers, and in France since 1998, according to his brother, he was a favorite of his comrades, of the volunteers, and of members of support committees. "I’m ready to take his place", swears his brother. "I don’t have a family, and I can’t take care of his children. We’re not bandits. It’s misery that pushed us into exile", he laments.

"We are the sacrificial goats of the Sarkozy agenda", emphasizes Dalla, one of the delegates. She points to Coumba, wife of Silakona Soukouna, seated on the ground, haggard, in front of the metal fence around the commissariat, her children on her thighs. "How can you break lives like this, with no pity?", she cries, her eyes dimmed with tears.

Wednesday, 20 September 2006, page 2

[1September 19

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