Riots in Clichy-sous-Bois
It appears that, last Thursday, three boys in this suburb of Paris felt threatened enough by police that they hid in an electrical sub-station. They were electrocuted--two died and one was critically injured--and riots immediately erupted.
This article from the BBC gives a good background to the situation in the Paris suburbs. In Paris (and other European cities), the urban-suburban split is the opposite of what it is in the US: The closer to downtown Paris one gets, the more expensive and exclusive the neighborhoods, while the poorest (usually of Arab and African descent) are relegated to the banlieus, the suburban public-housing neighborhoods outside of Paris.
The reports are already ambiguous as to what happened, with some articles reporting that the boys were playing inside the sub-station and got hurt. Police spokesmen denied that they were chasing the boys. This article in the Times of London Online, interestingly, contains a more complete account of what specifically happened on Thursday. According to a state prosecutor, the three boys were not being chased by police but instead ran when the police moved in on another group of youth. Yeah, right...
It looks to me like the police would have to be pretty confident to be able to claim that, while they were chasing one group of poor, black, Muslim youth through the slums, they could reasonably expect that their reasons for chasing this group would be clear to bystanders and that, moreover, bystanders who also happened to be poor, black, Muslim youth would understand these reasons clearly and would not themselves run.
Further, the police, upon seeing these bystanders run, would be able to identify them as such and--feeling confident enough in public trust in this heightened ability to distinguish poor, black, Muslim criminals from poor, black, Muslim innocent bystanders--could expect that when they told the bystanders to stop running, the bystanders would do so expecting not to be detained, searched and arrested, the level of love and mutual respect between police and banlieu resident being as high as it is... Yeah, I'm buying that right after the deed for oceanfront property in Tennessee is in my name.