19 July 2010

Gypsies riot in Saint-Aignan

I left Saint-Aignan yesterday in the middle of a riot and didn't even know it. It must have been going on, or just calming down, when Walt and I drove down to the bridge at about 10:00 a.m., on our way to the train station in Onzain. It was from Amerloque's comment on my blog post yesterday that I learned about it.

Here's the story as I've understood it. Friday night or early Saturday morning, the gendarmes based at the autoroute exit across the river from our village were pursuing a vehicle and had set up a roadblock in the nearby village of Thésée (where there are Roman ruins). A car with a driver and a passenger ran through the roadblock, stopped briefly, and then accelerated abruptly just as two gendarmes were walking toward their car from the front. One of the gendarmes pulled out his pistol and shot at the car — but not the people in it, according to police.

An hour or two later, a body was found dumped on a street in the nearby village of Saint-Romain-sur-Cher. It was somehow identified as the body of the young man who had been driving the car that ran the roadblock in Thésée, or his passenger, six or so miles away. I don't know how all that was determined. He was a gypsy, un manouche, the police reported. Apparently, the members of his community were very angry about his death.

I took a picture in the metro at the Gare d'Austerlitz.
This is an above-ground line (Bobigny-Place d'Italie).

Saint-Romain is the town where my favorite wine co-op is located. I go there often. On the TV news last night, they said that there is a big gypsy community there. I've never seen any sign of such a place. There's a gypsy encampment over near Selles-sur-Cher that I've noticed, and there's one I know about on the other side of Montrichard, but I've obviously been oblivious to what goes on in Saint-Romain.

Anyway, a crowd of people identified on the news as gypsies, or gens du voyage, attacked the gendarme station over at the autoroute exit during the night between Saturday and Sunday. And then on Sunday morning at about 9:00 a.m., the group, made up of as many as 50 people, went to Saint-Aignan and launched an attack on the Gendarmerie there. It's over near the hospital, on the other side of town from where we live.

TV reports said that most of the attackers were wearing ski masks, and some carried crowbars or axes. They cut down and burned three big linden trees, turned over and burned three cars, and entered and looted the neighborhood boulangerie/pâtisserie, taking all the baguettes, croissants, mille-feuilles, and babas au rhum that were in the display cases. The boulangère was quite shaken, as you can imagine; she was interviewed for the TV news. I don't mean to be facetious. Nobody was injured, according to reports.

Here's a link to a video of the incident that was published on the local newspaper's site.

I like this poster I saw in the metro car.
It's about learning a new "tongue"une nouvelle langue.

Three hundred military personnel were sent to Saint-Aignan to protect the citizenry in the afternoon and for the night. I hope Walt spends a quiet night. I'll write more about this incident as the story develops. It is unbelievable that such a thing could happen in a quiet town like Saint-Aignan. Meanwhile, I had a nice afternoon in Paris, where the weather was beautiful and the food at the Japanese restaurant was, as always, delicious.


  1. Good grief! How frightening for the citizens of the town. You never know when trouble is just around the corner.
    I'm sure the gypsies have really endeared themselves to the people of St-Aignan by destroying their property and looting shops.

  2. Here are more videos:



    It is incredible that the manouches could mess around burning cars and attacking the gendarme station while claiming the police being brutally unfair...

    Like they say, "L'été va être chaud..." (but I don't think you need to worry for Walt).

  3. I saw that last night on the news and thought of you. Good grief, your poor little town. Now it looks like you've been invaded by the whole French police force.
    Hope it quiets down there.

  4. I never would imagine something like this would happen in St. Aignan. I'm sad for the people of the village. Their peace of mind is probably shattered for at least a while.

  5. Your sweet little city has been traumatized and I feel so sorry for its people. What a shame!
    (That shook me up myself so I can only imagine how they feel).

  6. That's shocking! What odd choices people make when they're in a mob.... chopping down trees? ruining a bakery??

    Looking forward to more Paris photos, as well as those documenting your travels with CHM :)) Did you mention in an earlier post that you'll be in Amiens? Will cathedral photos be forthcoming!? :))


  7. We had something of the same type more than ten years ago in our quiet little village...no deaths, luckily.
    I remember you once commenting on my blog that you wondered if we lived in the same country...or words to that effect...
    Welcome to France.

  8. How awful! We had a similar incident here in Belgium a while ago, when the police shot a dangerous gangster. For days on end youngsters raided the streets of one of the Brussels' suburbs.
    As for Saint-Aignan, I really hope it was a one time incident and that the gypsies will move on quickly and not turn this into an annual 'pilgrimage'.
    P.S. The incident was on the 6 p.m. news here!

  9. Interesting that the kid's body was found. You would think they would have taken it back to the gypsy camp.

    They've been advertising that Wall Street English forever.

    BTW, the word verification today is bledless.

  10. Just read Walt's blog. He didn't even mention it.

  11. Hello the fly on the web, yes, I do remember asking you in a comment what France you lived in. Well, I guess I live in the same one. Incidents like the recent one in Saint-Aignan in can happen anywhere, anytime, of course. Americans know that more than almost anybody.

    Everybody, I'm having a hard time bogging and commenting. There is something wrong with my laptop keyboard and touchpad. Processing pictures and even typing text have become impossible tasks. I may have to wait until I get back home next weekend to update the blog. Sorry if I haven't responded to your comment.

  12. "[...] Incidents like the recent one in Saint-Aignan in can happen anywhere, anytime, of course.[...]"

    No, it cannot. I don't understand why you're downplaying this. May be you could pay a visit to the boulangère, and explain her this was nothing.

    Or may be you could re-read your post and think twice before commenting:

    "[...]Three hundred military personnel were sent to Saint-Aignan to protect the citizenry in the afternoon and for the night. I hope Walt spends a quiet night. I'll write more about this incident as the story develops. It is unbelievable that such a thing could happen in a quiet town like Saint-Aignan.[...]"

    I like your blog very much, because I have family in and around Saint-Aignan, and you're definitely showing what we like about this region or France in general. Saying events like this could happen anywhere just does not fit in here.

  13. Well, jdlp, I certainly disagree with that, and I think the government sending in 300 gendarmes or whatever military was sent in was an over-reaction. It's a typical French show of force.

    Remember, the only person hurt (killed, actually) was the 22-year-old "traveller" -- gypsy -- who was shot last Friday night. In other countries -- the U.S. or Mexico, for example -- we often read about how many people were killed in one incident or another, or in random crime events. Let's not get carried away about the Saint-Aignan incidents.

  14. I do not think the comparison between France and the states is a valid one. Or if you want to compare them, then tell us what would happen to people attacking a police station in the states.

    300 additional military people (most probably "Gendarmes" in France) would sound ridiculous in the states, because cops there would never have let them act like they did. And we would not need additional Gendarmes if they could do their job in the first place.

    Anyway, I think it is normal we disagree. As a Frenchman, I have a different understanding of these events, and the impact they can have on French public. What is also worrying with these gypsies, is that they have been mimicking the "jeunes" (e.g. from Grenoble ou Villier-le-bel), and that can only be a bad thing.

    In the meantime, I will still enjoy your posts, pictures and recipes. Keep up the good job!

  15. Hi jdlp !

    Amerloque must admit that he is far, far more in agreement with jdlp than wth Ken (Hi Ken ! Still a great blog ! Keep strong and travel safely !).

    Deploying 300 (military) gendarmes is standard French practice – it is most definitely not an overreaction.

    For those readers unfamiliar with France (This is not an answer to jdlp.):

    Patrolling paddywagons generally have six or seven 'agents de police' on board. This is for two reasons. The 'agents' can encircle fighters or a quarreling couple, say, and nip further violence in the bud, relying on numbers rather than violence.

    The second reason is that standard rules of engagement for normal 'agents' preclude their drawing their weapons and opening fire. They are not expected to. One of Amerloque's neighbors is a young 'agent de police', orininally from the provinces. His weapons ammunition training allowance is … six rounds … per year. One really doesn't want such untrained folks opening fire around them, eh ?

    In recent years, the Ministry of the Interior has been deploying the BAC: the Brigade Anti-Criminalite, in the big cities. The is, basically, two or three cops in a (fast/modern) car. They are heavily armed like the US police and their weapons training is like the USA. They deal with holdups and suchlike, and shoot when necessary, i.e., in self-defense.

    Gendarmes are military, not civilian (think 'Guardia Civil' and 'Carabienieri'). Until recently they were under the command of the Ministre des Armées. One of President Sarkozy's 'reforms', however, has been to place them under the command of the Minister of the Interior. They're being transformed over time into glorified cops. Some here believe that this was done to prevent a possible 'coup d'etat', which has been a great fear of the Powers-That-Be since the (relatively large) street demonstrations by the (supposedly apolitical) 'gendarmes' several years ago. The gov't shuddered when it saw that.

    Amerloque supposes he has been here long enough not to see all of France with rose-colored glasses, nor to believe the internal propaganda/news on TV. Living in a great, bucolic place like Saint-Aignan is enoying the traditional France – Ken is very, very fortunate ! (wide grin)

    (end of part one)

  16. Hi jdlp !

    (beginning of part two)

    Comparing France to the USA is not such a good idea, in Amerloque's opinion, in many, many areas. The three which spring to mind immediately are the justice/court system (including law enforcement), the educational system, and the healthcare system (including emergency medical services).

    Things are not going too well here in France these days, if Amerloque may be so bold. In the big cities, that is, and some parts of the countryside. Here's what is happening with the gypsies (Amerloque will not write here about the 'projects', the 'racial gangs, or 'communitarism'.)

    The 'gypsies' ('Roms', 'Roma' 'Tziganes') interviewed on French TV during the Saint-Aignan affair were certainly French. The vast majority are, probably, and the vast majority might even be relatively law-abiding. May.

    Yet thanks to the EU's open borders, we also have thousands of Rumanian Gypsies streaming to France, who immediately send their kids off to pickpocket. Of course, they plead abject poverty when they're busted. The gov't and judges then sign them up for a bevy of entitlements, since they are 'disadvantaged'. After some time, they purchase a new motor home (and Mercedes to haul it), and go back to Rumania.

    They subsequently return to France after one year (in this case the legal limit before which an 'expelled' person cannot return) and start all over again, with 'new', rented children (since the original ones have paid their keep, so to speak, and have been DNAd anyway during custody here).

    (end of part two)

  17. (beginning of part three)

    In Amerloque's village in Normandy, about a hundred gypsies illegally occupied a farmer's unfenced field a while back. The farmer (and City Hall) went to court to have them evicted. The court agreed and issued an eviction notice … which the 'préfet' (Prefect) chose to ignore, since if he enforced the judgement, there would be a chance of 'endangering public order'. (There is no recourse against the Prefect's action, by the way, except through the administrative tribunal, which can take a decade or more. Not quite like in the USA, eh ?) The gypsies said that they would leave when they were good and ready.

    So, what happened, one might ask ?

    Several things.

    The first is that the farmers in the area mended all their fences, leaving existing hedgerows to block access to the field(s), which are both cropland and grazing land. A second group of farmers dug a ditch along the parts of their field adjacent to the road (a ditch approximately two meters wide and one meter deep), preventing vehicle access.

    While this was going on, the gendarmes invested the area (not like in St-A, though !) and began busting gypsies. To identify them, so that the tax people could make inquiries (yes, just like Al Capone way back then).

    A third group of farmers prepared for the day when the gypsies decamped.

    (end of part three)

  18. (beginning of part four)

    They finally did, and this third group of farmers, demonstrating 'typical' French inventiveness, cleaned up the field and … spread manure. Fresh. Two feet deep. (Fortunately Amerloque's place is far upwind.)

    No more gypsies in Amerloque's village, since then.

    By the way, about 100 cars are torched per day (!) in France at the best of times. Last year the Bastille Day (July 14th) score was 700+. The authorities are not releasing the figures this year, so as to "avoid creating a kind of public contest". What they really mean is that there are even more than ever, in spite of President Sarkozy's supposed "régime sécuritaire".

    Perrhaps Amerloque has become 'too French' (grin) and Mme Amerloque 'too American' (sigh). She says that the gendarmes should have been far tougher in Saint-Aignan and Grenoble, 'à l'americaine'.




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