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On this date in 2005, racial rioting began in France.
Starting in a northeastern Paris suburb of Toulouse, black African immigrants were angry over the deaths of two Black teenagers. Rage had been building over racism and living and working conditions for Africans, and the dissent grew into a nationwide insurrection.
The reaction forced France to confront anger building for decades in neglected suburbs and among the French-born children of Arab and Black African immigrants. The teenagers whose deaths sparked the rioting were of Mauritanian and Tunisian descent. They were electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation, thinking they were being chased.
French President Jacques Chirac said that rioters would be caught and punished, but he acknowledged in a meeting with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga that France had not integrated immigrant youths. Chirac deplored the "ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin" and recognized "the incapacity of French society to fully accept them." He added, "France "has not done everything possible for these youths, supported them, so they feel understood, heard, and respected," Chirac added. He noted that unemployment runs as high as 40 percent in some suburbs, four times the national rate.