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French Riots Spark Political Crisis

France is reeling after nine nights of violence in poor immigrant communities. In one of the Paris suburbs hit by rioting, citizens marched for peace Saturday. The street violence has sparked a political crisis, with calls for the interior minister to resign.

In the suburb of Clichy Sous Bois, the father of one of the boys whose accidental death triggered the rioting begged young people to stop the violence that had begun over his son's death.

Samir Mihi is a community leader in Clichy Sous Bois who works with troubled youth. "We could understand their anger in the beginning when the two boys died," Mihi says. "But now they're not burning cars anymore they're burning buses and companies where people work, and we just don't understand."

The French watched the nightmarish scenes and stories unfold on the nightly news. A supermarket and textile factory was destroyed, more than 900 cars have been incinerated and a woman was doused with gasoline and set on fire as she got off a public bus.

No one knows when and how the violence will stop. Many in the affected communities blame remarks by Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy, who has called the troublemakers scum and riffraff and promised to clean out the suburbs with a power hose.

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Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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