Sarkozy Urges Calm After Riots in Paris Suburb

The families of two youths leave the Elysee presidential palace courtyard in Paris. i

The families of two youths killed in a motorbike collision with a police car in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel leave the Elysee presidential palace courtyard in Paris after meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy. Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images
The families of two youths leave the Elysee presidential palace courtyard in Paris.

The families of two youths killed in a motorbike collision with a police car in the northern Paris suburb of Villiers-le-Bel, flanked by town mayor Didier Vaillant (left), leave the Elysee presidential palace courtyard in Paris after meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

The president of France voiced his disdain Wednesday for the riots that broke out in a Paris suburb, saying the clash between police and minority teenagers that resulted in injury to some officers was "unacceptable."

The comments were President Nicolas Sarkozy's first response to the violence that started over the weekend while he was in China.

Sarkozy declared that the rioters would be brought to justice.

The violence started to ebb Tuesday after authorities were dispatched to round up those throwing Molotov cocktails and burning cars.

"What has happened is absolutely unacceptable," Sarkozy said after meeting with a wounded police captain hospitalized in Eaubonne, north of Paris.

He described the attacks against police as assassination attempts, and pledged to bring offenders to justice.

Rioting erupted after the deaths of two minority teens whose motor scooter collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town on Paris' northern edge. Residents claimed that the officers left without helping the teens.

Sarkozy described the teens' deaths as "distressing" but said it was no excuse for shooting police. He met with families of the two teens and told them that a judicial inquiry had been opened into their deaths.

The rioting recalls the violence that raged in 2005. Those riots also started in the suburbs of northern Paris, when two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police.

The recent violence highlights that anger still smolders in poor housing projects where many Arabs, blacks and other ethnic minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society. High unemployment continues to be a problem, along with feelings of disenfranchisement and harassment by police, so the deaths of the two youths wound up igniting a tinderbox.

Sarkozy is unwelcome in the poor neighborhoods because of his hard line on crime and immigration. He was interior minister in charge of police during the 2005 riots and took a tough stance on the violence.

But even before those riots, he angered many in the projects when he called delinquents there "scum."

Didier Vaillant, mayor of Villiers-le-Bel, asked Sarkozy to arrange meetings to address the "difficulties facing the suburbs."

Among them are the long-held tensions between France's largely white police force and ethnic minorities in poor neighborhoods. Heavy state investments have done little to improve the depressed area just a few miles away from the glamorous tourist attractions in Paris.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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