As Ferguson seethes, Europe weighs its own policing efforts

European media see the police response in Ferguson, Mo., as a warning against police over-reaction and militarization.

Charlie Riedel/AP
A man stands in front of police during a protest Monday night in Ferguson, Mo, over the shooting of Michael Brown. The European media has been using the week of protests, riots, and looting in the St. Louis suburb to assess the Continent's own problems with integrating minorities.

Media across Europe are using the protests and rioting in Ferguson, Mo., to reflect on their own successes and failures in dealing with religious and racial strife in recent years.

Although Europe is no stranger to such upheaval, most of the Continent's coverage has focused on American inability to put to an end the legacy of racial segregation – despite having the first African-American president sitting in the White House – and condemning the “militarization” of America’s police force.

France's left-leaning Liberation uses the ongoing tensions in the United States to ask what France might learn, comparing Ferguson to its own riots in recent years. Among the worst were the two-month disturbances in the suburbs of Paris in 2005, after teens were chased down by police and ended up getting accidentally electrocuted. “There are not enough blacks in the American police. Do we have enough Muslims among the French police?” Liberation asks.

The Right-leaning Le Figaro, meanwhile, says that beyond the racial question, a key issue is the “excessive militarization” of the police to maintain order.

Just as the riots in France and Ferguson share similarities, so too are there parallels between Ferguson and the 2011 riots that broke out in London after the police shooting of Mark Duggan, which raised anger about what was seen as institutionalization of racism in the police force.

“But the key difference,” writes the Spectator today, “was that in Britain, a strong police presence quelled the violence. In Ferguson, more law enforcement agents seemed to ignite the tinderbox. At the time of writing, there is no end in sight.”

The Metro, a free daily, says that the riots were subdued in London because police did not use rubber bullets, tear gas, or water cannons – as many had called for – and instead opted for riot shields and truncheons to limit the injury to bystanders. “Ferguson is a living example of why we should be immensely grateful that those tactics were never used during the UK riots.”

The German press has been vocal in its condemnation of what is happening in Missouri. One expert interviewed by Der Spiegel, translated by the Los Angeles Times, said that in the US "the police quickly appear very militarized. That would never be the case in Germany. We are very restrained in our use of guns; they are weapons of last resort.”

“In the US, it seems to me, the police are far quicker to resort to guns,” he added. “Even at the training stage, there is a much heavier emphasis on shooting” than in Germany."

In Spain, the leading El Pais says that “events in Ferguson ... remind us that … the decades of slavery, segregation, discrimination, and marginalization, haven’t come to an end.”

And in Sweden, where riots broke out in the Stockholm suburb of Husby last year among minorities after a police killing in the community, the newspaper Dagens Nyheter calls it a “horrible paradox” that an African-American is in the White House while so many African-Americans themselves are “relegated to second-class citizens.”

The paper concludes: “This is a litmus test for the Obama administration. Now he has every reason to deal with the well-documented discrimination against blacks in the police and judiciary.”

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