I debated whether to post about this. On the one hand, the protests are supported by a majority of the French. This is not an immigrant-only issue. On the other, there is a strong presence of immigrants among the rioters, and there's talk of the riots degenerating into urban warfare and a new social movement, which doesn't really have to do with the pension reforms.
Although they are sometimes lumped together in media reports, there is a clear distinction between "political" student protests of this kind and the anarchic and "anti-system" actions of disaffected, hooded youths in Lyons, Nanterre and elsewhere. In some incidents, the youths have attacked the "official" student protesters simply because they belong to other suburbs or other schools.
In Lyon yesterday, several small groups of youths smashed and looted shops and burned or overturned 30 cars in the city's administrative and shopping district. Thirteen people were arrested. There were also renewed acts of violence and clashes with police in Nanterre, a suburb just west of Paris, and lesser incidents in a score of other areas.
We don't know who those disaffected youth were, but following the rioting in Lyon Tuesday and Wednesday, UMP deputy Philippe Meunier (Rhône) proposed to deport (FR) from France rioters who are foreign citizens.
According to Le Figaro, most of the rioters are from the banlieues (translated/summarized from Le Figaro):
Cars set on fire, fire trucks pelted with stones, shops and street furniture looted, clashes with the police forces: more than 1500 'rioters' were arrested last week on the fringes of protests against the pension reforms.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, the vandals aren't foreign to the protest movement, explains a senior official. They're students, even as young as 12 year old ones. These youth, says the official, are opportunistic and unstructured, forming sporadic groups according to the targets on the way. The most destructive are armed with makeshift weapons found on the way: a snatched post, or a stolen bicycle are used to smash store windows and then loot them, says a police agent in Seine-Saint-Denis. One of the 'rioters' even forgot his notebook in a shop in Seine-Saint-Denis which was looted by 40 people. Fifteen years old and without a police record, he was arrested six hours later at home. Earlier another gang targeted a bakery.. in order to pick up candy.
The proximity of the 'trouble suburbs' to the marching routes complicates the job of the police, for example, in Nanterre, where rioters gathered to harass the riot police. At the departmental directorate of public security in Essonne, a police offices says that during the protests, high-school and college students from the underprivileged areas ("difficult neighborhoods") turn into rioters. They put on a hood and start to pelt the police, or burn garbage, or even cars. Then they melt back into the protest march, some changing their clothing so as not to be recognized by the police videos.
[the article continues with a discussion of the radical-leftist autonome violence]