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French Press Review: Ferguson and Race in America

This week has seen increased scrutiny directed at the events in Ferguson, Missouri, with the French media getting more directly involved and opinionated.

From Watts to Ferguson: American Race Riots Spark French Interest

Last week, French Morning reviewed the French Press’ take on the events surrounding the fatal shooting by police of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18 year old from Ferguson, Missouri.

Ten days after the fact, French media outlets are still, if not increasingly critical of local authorities’ effort to provide a solution to this worryingly tense situation.


Le Monde, in an opinion piece tells us that “the drama in Ferguson is an undeniable reminder of  the persistence of America’s racial fracture.

They go on to say that “[the situation] maintains the intimate and unbearable belief, held by many young black Americans that they remain the favored target of daily police brutality, incessant police stops not to mention fatal shootings.”

L’Express meanwhile, in an article titled “Ferguson: The Roots of Rage” gives us a general picture of the context in which this small town imploded.

The article is divided into five subsections: demographic shift (or “white flight”), the damage done by the financial crisis, an apparent inability to “learn from past mistakes”, the “Obama disappointment” and, more generally, that racial discrimination has not decreased.

A young Black man killed by police in Ferguson: the worrying militarization of police” is the title chosen by Le Nouvel Observateur in their take on the story. The article highlights the “similarities with the 1960s” and the Watts riots. “[Police forces] are equipped with kit provided by the military that they use against protesters. The methods used by police are therefore particularly violent and legitimise interpretations that claim that this treatment is reserved for Black people.”

Finally, Le Monde dedicated a story exclusively to Antonio French the local councilor from Saint Louis that has become one of the most vocal “leaders” of the protests.

In the past week, Antonio French has become one of the most visible personalities of a movement that criticises police aggression towards the African-American community, regardless of the fact that he does not even live in Ferguson.

Many of Antonio French’s experiences mirror those of a movement born in the tragedy of August, 9.”

“Antonio French’s opportunism, his ability to stand up to unreliable institutions, his quasi-scientific use of social media and its snowball effect is evocative of the eruption of Ferguson as a national debate in the US as the protests of West Florissant Avenue on Friday and Saturday only drew sparse crowds”  

Nevertheless, French media outlets remained interested in the developments in the Ferguson story and will most likely continue to provide coverage and analysis.


Les médias” have also joined in on the hype surrounding the ever popular “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”, a viral trend which seeks to raise awareness and money towards curing Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Le Point with AFP writes: “A bucket a ice water poured over your head and a 100$ donation: Justin Bieber, Bill Gates and dozens of American celebrities are getting wet by accepting this challenge for a good cause, Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has gone viral online”

Liberation has also joined in by explaining the origins of the phenomenon: “It appears that former MLB player Pete Frates, who suffers from ALS, managed to take a pre-existing movement (the ice bucket challenge) and use it in the fight against the disease in a video published on the 1st of August”

Liberation also explains how the system works: “The system is a classic Facebook challenge. Someone does something silly and challenges others to do the same or pay a forfeit. The Forfeit in this case is to donate to the ALS Foundation, a charity organisation that provides research and helps care for people who suffer from ALS as well as help the families who care for them. In this case, the silly thing is to pour a bucket of ice water on one’s head.”

Le Figaro, Le Monde  and other major news outlets in France have covered this feel-good story which has now made its way to the United Kingdom and we may see the phenomenon reach France’s cloud soon!


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