At about 3am last Friday I was woken up by what sounded like gunfire. I wasn’t far wrong. From the back windows of my apartment in southern Paris I could make out fireworks being hurled at the police and hear the immediate response with “flash-balls”, the “less than lethal” weapons used by French police for riot control.
I had spent the evening following the news coverage of the violent riots that were breaking out spontaneously all over France. There were familiar images of cars and buildings on fire and heavily armed police lines – familiar at least to anyone who has lived through the past few years of angry protest in France. But what was most disturbing about these riots was the sheer scale of it all: the violence was not just contained to the banlieues of the big cities but was everywhere, including picturesque towns such as Montargis in the Loiret.