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Meet the New Normal as nearly 1,000 cars are torched

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A total of 847 cars were set ablaze in France in the early hours of the first day of the new year, the Interior Ministry admitted, with hundreds of people detained over the wanton destruction.

The mass burning of parked vehicles has become an infamous and much lamented ‘tradition’ in France, where hundreds of vehicles are torched almost every New Year’s Eve. 

Hallelujah or Alu Akbar, this year, however, fewer cars were damaged than before, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who attributed the decrease not to fewer insurrectionists but to a bigger police presence and speedy action by relevant public services.

Darmanin thanked police and civil security personnel on Twitter for what he ludicrously described as the ‘decrease in violence.’ Despite the efforts of security officials, hundreds of cars were still set ablaze, but Darmanin boasted the number was smaller than in 2019 when more than 1,300 vehicles were torched.

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Some 95,000 police officers and gendarmes were deployed to the streets of the French cities on Saturday night in a failed attempt to maintain law and order, as well as enforce the government’s Covid-19 restrictions that put a cap on participants at gatherings. Around 32,000 firefighters and civil security officials also aided in dealing with the night-time terrifying incidents.

In the French city of Strasbourg alone, 87 cars were set on fire, around 30 people were arrested and four police officers were injured, according to the French media. The city saw the rioters mounting particularly fierce resistance and clashing with law enforcement, including by pelting the officers with firecrackers. 

The total number of detentions and arrests was also slightly higher than in 2019, with 441 people arrested throughout France.

The practice of car-torching became popular among youths in poor French neighbourhoods, a media euphemism for migrant-infested ghettos in the 1990s. The insurrections became particularly widespread on New Year’s Eve. It also reached an unprecedented scale during three weeks of riots that engulfed the suburbs of the French capital, Paris, and other cities back in 2005. At that time, 8,810 vehicles were burned.

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