STEVE INSKEEP, host:
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting China earlier this week when violence broke out in a suburb back in Paris. Sarkozy is back home now and spoke out against the riots.
More than 100 police officers were wounded when young people threw rocks and threw Molotov cocktails and open fire with hunting shotguns. The young people were protesting the deaths of a couple of minority teenagers killed on Sunday when their motor scooter collided with a police cruiser.
Let's go to reporter Anita Elash who's covering this story from Paris.
And can I ask how this violence compares with the big riots in Paris and around Paris a couple of years ago?
ANITA ELASH: Well, I think you can - the good news is that it hasn't lasted nearly as long. It seems to be - pretty much over by now, but as you were saying there were shotguns fired, there were Molotov cocktails thrown, and so even though it only lasted a couple of days, it was considered to be far worse - much more intense than what we saw in 2005.
And one of the things that I found interesting was that there were also much younger people involved this time. There were 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds out there throwing Molotov cocktails at the police, and I heard some reports that there were even 10-year-olds involved, who were acting as lookouts sort of police spotters, so that they could warn people and tell them where the police were, so that they could stay one step ahead.
INSKEEP: What is the political environment there now, that what could be described as a car accident, would lead to such an outburst to violence?
ELASH: Well, I think the - really nothing much in the suburb has changed since 2005. People in these disadvantage neighborhoods felt very much disenfranchised then, and they still feel disenfranchised. You have a lot of young people of immigrant background who with a high rate of unemployment, who have nothing to do, and who feel that they are constantly being harassed by the police.
And so when you have an incident involving the police, when you have two young people who are killed in what now seems to have been an accident, that is really enough of a spark; they can just set the whole tender box into flames.
INSKEEP: So when President Sarkozy came back from China and spoke out against this, what did he have to say?
ELASH: Well, he used some fairly strong language. He said that the actions of these people who had been shooting at the police and throwing Molotov cocktails at the police were intolerable that it was - he called it attempted murder, and he said that they would be found and brought to justice.
One of the things he also did this morning, shortly after getting off the plane, was invited the parents of the two dead boys to the Elysee Palace for a meeting to express his condolences.
And he told them that he would follow through on a request from them to appoint a judge to investigate what had happen with police. That's especially important because one of the issues at the root of this were questions about whether the police were telling the truth about what they were doing. Was there a police chase? Was this stolen? And then the police stayed long enough the boys who had been injured or did they leave before paramedics arrived?
ELASH: And so what Mr. Sarkozy said is that there will be no questions unanswered, and that by the time this is over, the parents will have the answers that they are looking for.
INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. That's Anita Elash reporting from Paris. You're hearing her on MORNING EDITION from NPR News.
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