African riots enter French politics
It began with a routine ticket check at a Paris train station. What happened next - rioting, looting, tear gas - showed the anger that erupted into violence in France's troubled neighborhoods in 2005 still smolders beneath the surface.
The rampage by youths, many apparently of African or North African descent, at a major rail hub Tuesday became an instant campaign issue in the French presidential race. It was a jarring reminder of the social tensions France's new leader will contend with when he or she takes power in May.
Front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy of the governing right called the violence at the Gare du Nord unacceptable. His main rival, Socialist Segolene Royal, blamed Sarkozy's camp, saying the right's policing policies were an utter failure.
Anger erupted after a 32-year-old man without a Metro ticket punched two inspectors during a routine check, police said. The man, an illegal alien from Congo who has challenged France's efforts to expel him, had been convicted in 2004 for insulting a magistrate, police unions said.
Dozens of youths gathered to defend the man from ticket agents, and the group swelled to 300 people and grew more and more aggressive, police said.
The youths wielded metal bars, smashed windows, looted stores and injured eight train agents and a police officer, police authorities said.
DAR AL HARB - FRANCE: THE RIOTS OF 2005 ?!? "THEY NEVER FINISHED, IT SLOWED DOWN A BIT, BUT IT WAS NEVER OVER."
Rioting in Paris Dramatizes French Election