French Cops Brace for Sixth Night of Riots

Published November 01, 2005

| Associated Press

Tension mounted Tuesday in the troubled suburbs of Paris (search), after angry youths torched cars, garbage bins and even a primary school in rioting that resulted the arrest of 13 people.

Officials in Paris and Clichy-sous-Bois (search), a heavily muslim suburb to the northeast where the accidental deaths of two teenagers triggered the riots that began Thursday, worked to prevent a sixth night of violence.

Police rooms of a primary school on fire, along with several cars. Police said three officers were slightly injured.

"These acts have a direct link to the events in Clichy-sous-Bois," Sevran Mayor Stephane Gatignon said in a statement.

Suburbs that ring France's big cities, home to immigrant communities often from Muslim North Africa, suffer soaring unemployment and discrimination. Disenchantment and anger thrive in the tall cinderblock towers that make up the projects.

Besides Clichy-sous-Bois and Sevran, violence also erupted in Aulnay-sous-bois and Bondy, police said.

The troubles were triggered by the deaths of two teenagers of north African descent who were electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police they thought were chasing them. A third was injured but survived. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin (search) met Tuesday with the victims' parents, who a day earlier refused an invitation to meet with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy (search) — increasingly blamed for fanning anger with his tough talk and tactics.

"The prime minister expressed his will to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to new clashes," his office said. Meanwhile, the interior minister was presiding over a late-night meeting Tuesday on establishing dialogue to find "concrete solutions" to the problems in Clichy-sous-Bois, the prime minister's office said.

In Clichy-sous-Bois, the head of the Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur visited Muslim leaders but was forced to leave abruptly after his car was pelted with stones, according to a French press report. Local Muslim leaders worked to restore calm to the town, where a tear gas grenade landed in the mosque on Sunday, further fanning anger. It was unclear who threw the tear gas.

A growing number of politicians and anti-racism groups accused Sarkozy of inflaming tensions.

On Monday, Sarkozy ordered an increase in police in difficult neighborhoods and undercover agents to identify troublemakers, who he called "scum" and "riffraff."

Even within the conservative government, there were critics.

Such "warlike" words will not bring calm, Equal Opportunities Minister Azouz Begag (search) said in an interview published in the daily Liberation newspaper.

He told the paper that he "contests this method of becoming submerged by imprecise, warlike semantics."

While re-establishing order demands firmness, it is in "fighting the discrimination that victimizes youths that order is re-established, the order of equality," said Begag, who was raised in a low-income suburb of Lyon.

The president of SOS-Racism (search), an anti-racism group, called Tuesday for a "massive investment plan" to for the suburbs.

"The police response alone ... is not at all adequate," Dominique Sopo said on France-Info radio, calling for a "real policy of breaking the ghettos." Funds must go not only to building, but also to caring for the people via local associations, he said.

Violence first appeared in the suburbs in 1981, in the Lyon area.

For three decades, successive governments have made efforts to improve the suburbs, but the various projects failed to halt the sense of exclusion.

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