LUCY MANNING: There will be no 'no go' areas said the French government but last night Grigny in northern Paris was one area no one, not even the police wanted to go to.
A crowd of 200 hooded youths lured police into the housing estate and attacked them; shots were fired from pellet guns, ten officers were injured, two seriously, one after being shot in the neck. This was the most serious rioting since the violence began, youths taking on the police in running battles.
PHILIPPE BAUDON, Paris Police. It's very, very dangerous, and many, many policemen are injured.
LUCY MANNING: Do you have control? Are the police - the police are in control?
PHILIPPE BAUDON: The police are under control, but it's very, very difficult.
LUCY MANNING: The streets were littered with teargas canisters. Their orders are to regain order on the streets but in Paris as in Marseilles, St. Etienne, Toulouse and Lille, the rioters still have the upper hand.
By day, the deprivation on this estate is obvious; the mainly immigrant community have little prospects; the youths stand on street corner showing each other the mobile phone pictures they took of last night's riots.
There is no fighting here on the streets now but there is discussion, there is arguments, and they are angry. They are angry that they don't feel French; they are angry at the government and at the police who they say are provoking them.
MALE ON STREET: Maybe I have a paper French but I don't think I am a French people because they think we are not French.
I am French. I have the paper French. But when you go to the post, the police station, you are not French.
MALE (Translated): Sarkozy did a really terrible job. He really messed it up. He treats us like we are dirt on the car tires. I am not a tire.
LUCY MANNING: And so Mr. Sarkozy, the interior minister, his name a dirty word in these parts, met community leaders and admitted France had got its integration policies wrong.
NICHOLAS SARKOZY (Translated): At the same time we need to ask hard questions about immigration and integration. We can see that the French integration model is not working and needs to be seriously revisited.
LUCY MANNING: In the Arab cafes the talk is of how to make things right. Stephane Ouraoui met the with the prime minister Dominic de Villepin last week taking the view from the banlieue to the politicians.
STEPHANE OURAOUI: These people don't have nothing. And now the, they want something, and they want to obtain exactly same right and same condition as the French in other parts of the country.
LUCY MANNING: They are trying to achieve it through violence?
STEPHANE OURAOUI: This one is not clear from them, but they don't know another way to speak.
SPOKESMAN (Translated): Everything that is to do with the integration and discrimination has been set aside and all of the republic's values: liberty, fraternity and equality don't exist anymore.
LUCY MANNING: Despite Muslim leaders announcing a fatwa forbidding Muslims from joining the riots, nothing has stopped the burning or stopped the burning from spreading. They say they want change. The question tonight is whether the government's new proposals for improving the deprived areas will finally halt these riots.
RAY SUAREZ: And to Ray Suarez.
RAY SUAREZ: Late today, French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin gave cities and towns the authority to impose curfews.
To discuss the government's response and the origins of the rioting, we turn to: Alexis Debat, a contributing editor to the National Interest and a consultant for ABC News. He was a French defense ministry official and social worker before moving to the U.S. And Alec Hargreaves, author of "Immigration, Race and Ethnicity in Contemporary France." He is a French professor at Florida State University.
Alexis Debat, 12 nights of unrest, what are we to make of this now? Why? Why is this happening?
ALEXIS DEBAT: Well, what started as isolated clashes quickly became a political opportunity for these people to put their situation at the forefront of the political debate to make headlines with their own situations.
But now with the foreign media even giving extraordinary coverage of these events, it is becoming almost a historical opportunity, a historical event, a turning point that everybody wants to be a part in, everybody that is in this situation.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Hargreaves, do you agree with that analysis?
ALEC HARGREAVES: I do think that what we are seeing now is something on an unprecedented scale. It should be said that the last events of the last 10 days haven't come from nowhere.
For example since the beginning of this year, 28,000 automobiles have been torched in French cities; 7,000 or so of them in the last 10 days. These problems are rooted in deep-seated social inequalities, problems of discrimination and it should be said, political neglect.
And I think it is true that we may be seeing now an opportunity at last for politicians in France to confront, and hopefully, make progress on some of these very difficult issues.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, it was said to have started with the accidental deaths of two teenagers who were being chased by the police. But it's kept on going for a week and a half since then. What is fueling the fire?
ALEC HARGREAVES: One of the things which I think has fueled this particular escalation has been the handling of the situation by the Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin. He made some very - it has to be said --inflammatory remarks; he talked about youths involved in violence being scum and the French word that he was used was - "raki" - and that really incensed a lot of these young people, and I think helped to galvanize the events which we have seen.
And it has to be said that right now that Sarkozy, who made his name as being a tough and effective interior minister, is proving to be anything other than effective because the situation is very far from under control now.
RAY SUAREZ: And to be clear, it was the interior minister who used the term, "raki" - we saw and we saw him in the tape report that preceded our conversation and he said, Alexis Debat, we have to ask hard questions about the French integration model. What was he talking about?
ALEXIS DEBAT: Oh, indeed. He was talking about the fact that no French government in the past twenty, thirty years has been able to create the conditions of economic growth and social integration in these poor immigrant neighborhoods to the point that the second generation immigrants were torching the cars now, feel like second class citizens.
So it is not just an adjustment that is needed, but a true cultural revolution to make sure that these people are not excluded from the mainstream French community to kind of plug that racial divide between the white French and the immigrant French.
RAY SUAREZ: But we saw them in the taped report saying that they are told that they're not French, that they don't feel French. We are talking not about people who came to the country of France as youngsters, but people who are often the grandchildren of immigrants. Why do they feel that way? What is it about French society?
ALEC HARGREAVES: I think the critical point was made by the young man who was interviewed in that the piece from France who said I have French papers but when I go to the police station they treat me as if I'm not French. It is as if they are excluded and treated as not belonging in French society that gives them that feeling.
What they want is an opportunity to participate in French society. And if that is denied to them, these particularly young folks that we are seeing at the moment, these are just teenagers -- they believe at the moment that when they look at their older brothers and when they look at what's happened to their fathers, that there seems to be no way ahead for them in French society.
And that's why they are now targeting these, for example, institutional symbols such as the police and also of course automobiles which are symbols of what they are excluded from. They want to participate; they want to be French, but they are being told that they are not French.
RAY SUAREZ: Go ahead, Alexis.
ALEXIS DEBAT: The point the professor is making is excellent. I would like to add that it is mainly an issue of employment. Today a French Muslim has one-eighth to one-tenth the chance of a non-Muslim French national with a non-Muslim name to get a job.
I mean, there is a pervasive, very dark racism in French society that associates the second generation Muslims, these second generation immigrants with trouble.
And we're talking about a generational change that is going to be needed. Some very tough questions are going to have to be addressed. And I'm afraid that the people who are going to address them are the same people who are not able to address them in the past 20 years.
And that's what these riots are about. They're about the lack of trust in the French government by these people -- the lack of trust in the French elite to make a difference. Today there is no organization or institution to channel this anger because those political parties have been totally discredited.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor, you have noted the confrontational style of the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy. Has this crisis exposed splits inside the French leadership on how to approach the problem, what to do?
ALEC HARGREAVES: Well, very interestingly this particular French government which took office in June of this year has the first-ever minister of North African immigrant origin - Azouz Begag; he is responsible for equal opportunities, which is, if you like the French way of talking about anti-discrimination policy. And the early stages of the disturbances which we have seen during the last 10 days, Mr. Begag was openly critical of Nicolas Sarkozy. Officially what he criticized was the language used by the interior minister not strictly speaking his policies. But it's quite clear that someone like Begag would favor a much more conciliatory approach down from the confrontational approach we've seen from the interior minister, Sarkozy.
RAY SUAREZ: What about the prime minister, Alexis, and the president?
ALEXIS DEBAT: Well, what you are seeing is also a very interesting political background to all of this, is that you have two people, two men, three, actually. You have President Chirac whose protégé is Prime Minister de Villepin on the one side, and on the other side you have Interior Minister Sarkozy. And it is widely believed that either de Villepin or Chirac but most probably de Villepin and Sarkozy will be the contenders in the 2007 presidential elections.
And in the piece that preceded this discussion, you saw that Interior Minister Sarkozy was talking about integration and that's a way for him to move back to the center where the battle is going to be in 2007 and the center right now is occupied by Prime Minister de Villepin.
There are some very fundamental political issues here.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, is there a point at which the sympathy in the rest of France, or what sympathy there may be in the rest of France for the plight of people stuck in these poor suburbs evaporates and a government crackdown becomes more likely, a really hard core crackdown?
ALEXIS DEBAT: I think we are reaching that point now. I think you are starting to see demonstrations, silent demonstrations against the violence, you're starting to see people coming out -- community leaders coming out against the violence.
A lot of Islamic leaders, by the way, a lot of - you mentioned fatwas, but a lot of - even Salafi leaders are coming out and saying we have to stop the violence. And one of the most interesting phenomenons about these riots is that for the most part, the neighborhoods where the Salafi influence is -
RAY SUAREZ: And that is - Salafism -- what is that?
ALEXIS DEBAT: Salafism -- where radical Islam is the most influential are the neighborhoods that are the most quietest now and it has to do with the fact that these neighborhoods, this rebellion is being channeled through religion. And as bad as it is, it is a more constructed, more democratic way, if you will, of expressing anger than just burning cars.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor, there have been look-a-like outbreaks in Brussels and in Britain. Is there a risk of wider European backlash?
ALEC HARGREAVES: Well, it is certainly true that some of the problems which we see in France, fairly closely replicated in other countries, Great Britain, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany.
I think if you look at the situation in Britain, we have actually seen very similar events to what is happening in France right now. We saw very similar events in Britain in the 1980s and indeed there were some quite serious riots in Britain as recently as a few weeks ago.
I'm not sure, while the potential exists for similar things in these other countries, I'm not sure that we are likely to see anything on the scale that we have seen in France, and I think that one of the reasons for this, is that certainly in countries such as Britain and the Netherlands there has been a much greater political will over the last ten, twenty years to try to do something about the problems of discrimination.
That's something which has been signally absent in France until very recently. Dominique de Villepin tonight on French television did talk about making greater efforts to fight discrimination. But it was all rather vague. The point that he hammered home the most tonight was about restoring order. And the other measures about which he spoke in his TV interview were really far less substantive.
RAY SUAREZ: Professor Hargreaves, Alexis Debat, gentlemen thank you both.