Up to 13 people have been arrested after an argument over a ticket in a Paris metro station sparked riots.
Violence spilled out of the station and on to nearby streets
Police used tear gas to disperse up to 100 youths at the Gare du Nord, one of Paris's major transport hubs.
Rioters smashed windows and attacked vending machines and shops, after objecting to the treatment of a man arrested for jumping a ticket barrier.
With French elections due next month, the left and right were quick to offer their interpretation of the violence.
Interior Minister Francois Baroin condemned the violence.
"A perfectly normal ticket check degenerated into urban guerrilla warfare, into unacceptable, intolerable violence. We live in a state of law and of freedom - but there is no freedom without rules," he said.
Mr Baroin took up the interior ministry on Monday after his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who is the centre-right's presidential candidate, stepped down to concentrate on his campaign.
"We are the only country where it is considered abnormal to arrest someone who doesn't pay for his ticket. If the police is not there to ensure a minimum of order, what exactly is its role?" Mr Sarkozy said.
But the Socialists say the hostility between police and young people is a direct result of the hardline policies of Mr Sarkozy.
The clashes "illustrate the climate of tension, the gulf and the violence dividing the police and the population. The conditions for a relationship of calm and trust have urgently to be re-established," said Julien Dray, spokesman for Socialist candidate Segolene Royal.
France saw its most severe riots for decades in the autumn of 2005 in its poor and mainly immigrant suburbs, which led the government to declare a state of national emergency.
Mr Sarkozy, who made his name campaigning on a law-and-order platform, was quick to crack down on the uprisings in the suburbs, causing controversy when he labelled the 2005 rioters "scum".
The youths who gathered in the Gare du Nord on Tuesday shouted insults about Mr Sarkozy.
They also chanted slogans of "police are everywhere, justice is nowhere" and "down with the state, police and bosses".
Police took several hours to clear rioters from the station's main hall.
The violence was sparked when a 33-year-old man without a ticket jumped over a barrier.
Transport officials said the man punched two ticket inspectors who asked for his ticket as part of a routine inspection. He was eventually arrested by police.
But a growing crowd felt that the police had used excessive force to arrest the man, and their protest turned violent.
The riots spilled out into nearby streets, where rubbish bins and street signs were set on fire.