The Riviera city of Nice banned the display of foreign flags Monday as French authorities tightened security ahead of a World Cup match between Germany and Algeria following riots after the last two Algerian games.
Christian Estrosi, the right-wing mayor of Nice, issued a decree temporarily banning what he termed the “ostentatious display of foreign flags” in the centre of the Riviera city, which is home to many people of Algerian heritage.
“Since the start of the World Cup we have sadly seen intolerable behaviour that severely disrupts public peace,” Estrosi added. He said the ban would remain in force until the end of the tournament.
When Algeria drew 1-1 against Russia on Thursday to qualify for the next round, France experienced an eruption of joy from its many Algerian supporters at home.
Not all of it was peaceful. With simmering racial tensions and ingrained hatred of the police among France’s immigrant population, there were confrontations with police and some 74 people were arrested.
That was more than double the 30-odd arrested on June 22 after Algeria’s win over South Korea.
Riots show 'bi-national citizens' failure to integrate, says Le Pen
The incidents prompted far-right leader Marine Le Pen to call for dual nationality to be revoked on the ground that the fervent support for Algeria reflected a failure to integrate into French society.
According to Le Pen, whose National Front (FN) party wants to slash immigration from North Africa, Thursday’s trouble demonstrated “the total failure of immigration policies in our country.”
Algerians make up France’s largest immigrant group, with close to two million people able to trace their roots back to the former colony.
Many hold dual citizenship and attachment to Algeria appears as strong amongst the French-born younger generation as it is amongst older immigrants.
"You should pick: are you Algerian or French, Moroccan or French, but you cannot be both," Le Pen said.
Speaking on Europe 1 radio, she said it was not the place of politicians to comment on football, but she said she found the events of Thursday night "eminently shocking" and was worried about the "consequences of matches played by Algeria on my compatriots".
French government minister Harlem Désir slammed Le Pen’s comments as an “attempt to play one off against the other,” and said the trouble-makers were a minority and not representative of the community.
“I would like to see that we do not mix up little groups and the majority who conduct themselves in a peaceful manner,” he said.
French group SOS Racisme said it was “as dangerous as it is concerning” for Le Pen to use isolated incidents to support the National Front’s agenda.
Call for calm
Still, French authorities were preparing for a big night with games between France and Nigeria (at 6pm Paris time, GMT+2) and then Algeria and Germany (10pm Paris time)
Authorities said they would deploy hundreds of extra police in Paris, Lyon, Lille and several other cities ahead of Monday’s match.
“We are asking everyone to stay calm while celebrating a victory,” government minister Désir said Monday.
“We must not let unruliness spoil what should be a party,” he told the LCI television channel, adding that adequate security measures had been put in place to pre-empt a repetition of last week’s incidents.
Lyon and Marseille both witnessed violence after Algerian World Cup games. Algerian fans also took over a part of Paris’s emblematic Champs-Elysees avenue and briefly clashed with police.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls blamed “ill-intentioned individuals for spoiling a beautiful celebration” with acts of violence.
Any victory for France and Algeria in Monday’s matches will be met with another wave of euphoria, although bookmakers are giving much better odds of a French victory over Nigeria than an Algerian win against Germany.
But if both teams win, they will go on to face each other in the quarter-finals, an event that would require another huge police presence.
(FRANCE 24 wih AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-30