Demonstrations took place in several towns around France Saturday to protest more than two weeks of violence by roving gangs of youths. Police in the French capital are also on alert for more violence Saturday night.
Hundreds of people participated in a number of demonstrations against nightly rioting and arson attacks around France that have destroyed hundreds of buildings and thousands of cars. The unrest began in late October, following the accidental deaths by electrocution of two ethnic immigrant youths in a suburb outside Paris.
But some of the protesters Saturday are also demonstrating against the state's tough response to the violence. Particularly controversial is the center-right government's declaration this week of a temporary state of emergency, and orders that foreigners involved in the violence will be deported from France.
In the southern French city of Toulouse, where roughly 600 people staged a peaceful demonstration, one sign reportedly read: "Chirac, Villepin, Sarkozy resign! It referred to France's President, Prime Minister and Interior Minister, respectively.
The critics include Mouloud Aounit, the head of the Mouvement Against Racism and for the Friendship of Peoples. The Paris-based anti-discrimination group called for a protest in the city late Saturday that gathered several hundred people.
In an interview with France-Info radio, Mr. Aounit said the new government measures were reminiscent of the Vichy regime under Nazi occupation of France. The demonstrators were calling for peace, Mr. Aounit said, but the government now is imposing this peace. What's needed is dialogue.
With the exception of the demonstration, police have banned all public gatherings in Paris Saturday night, fearful of more violence. They said the orders were given after a rash of Internet and text messages called for more violence in the French capital.