Via the U.K. Telegraph, there are clips of a newspaper article on Twitter that tells of an event where France’s then-President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Amedy Coulibaly, the man who was killed today after allegedly taking hostages at a Paris supermarket. Coulibaly has also been implicated in the shooting death earlier this week of a female police officer.
The meeting took place in 2009 in the Élysée Palace when Mr Sarkozy met nine young French men who got just jobs in a local factory. They were all from Grigny, a tough Parisian suburb torn by riots 10 years ago.
“Sarkozy is not truly popular with the youth in the estates. But that is nothing personal. In fact it is the case for most politicians,” said Coulibaly. “The encounter really impressed me. Whether I like him or not, he is the president after all.”
Grigny is one of a series of Paris suburbs known in France as les banlieues. Though suburbs may be wealthy or poor, banlieue has come to be understood as a type of area, just outside the city of Paris, that is made up of state-subsidized housing and populated by low-income or unemployed French nationals of foreign descent and immigrants from former French colonies.
Les banlieues have been the scene of social unrest, most notably in 1981 and 2005. The 2005 disturbances, referenced in the clip above, took place in several of these suburbs and lasted more than two weeks. The unrest was said to be triggered by the deaths of two area teenagers who were hiding from police in an electrical substation, where they were electrocuted.
The violence in these communities has provided talking points for the rightwing, French nationalist political party The National Front. Now headed by Marine Le Pen, the FN (as it is abbreviated in French) has blamed the unrest on what they believe are France’s too-liberal immigration laws.