The recent riots in France have plunged the nation into chaos, leaving its citizens terrified and seeking answers. Zartoshte Bakhtiari, the mayor of Neuilly-sur-Marne, a poverty-stricken area east of Paris, opens up about the nightmarish situation that has kept him awake for days. By day, he fulfills his duties as a mayor, but when darkness falls, he becomes a guardian of the streets, working tirelessly to provide an early warning system for the overwhelmed police force.
“Within days, we [were] in hell,” Bakhtiari reveals, his voice filled with desperation and concern.
A Cry for Help: Meeting with President Macron
This Tuesday, Bakhtiari will join over 200 other mayors in a crucial meeting at the Élysée Palace with President Emmanuel Macron. Their goal is to address the crisis and find a way forward. The mayor seeks a firmer response from the government, urging them to grant local city police permission to use drones for enhanced surveillance.
“The situation we face today is the culmination of years of political weakness and a failure to make crucial decisions,” Bakhtiari declares with a sense of urgency. “The issue lies in the lack of authority. These rioters have no fear of justice. They may face court proceedings, but they return home within hours due to the insufficient number of prison cells in this district of Paris. We cannot tolerate such weakness from the state.”
A Trail of Destruction: The Price of Weakness
Just outside Bakhtiari’s office in the town hall stands the charred remnants of the local city police station. The mayor points to the blackened facade, explaining how the rioters effortlessly breached the building, leaving a fleet of burnt-out squad cars in their wake. However, the police station was not the sole victim of this destructive rampage. It was also home to the public housing department, responsible for assisting 2,300 locals in finding shelter.
Laurence Tendron Brunet, head of the housing department, stands amidst the ruins, her heart heavy with sorrow. “I’m devastated,” she confides. “We will rebuild, we will start anew. But right now, countless individuals desperately need housing. These are not mere files; they are fellow human beings.”
The Faces Behind the Chaos: Unraveling the Arsonists’ Motives
Bakhtiari reveals that the arsonists responsible for this devastation were captured on surveillance footage. Shockingly, they appear to be teenagers, possibly aged between 14 and 16. Laurence expresses her bewilderment, stating, “It’s difficult to comprehend that children are capable of such destruction. At that age, their parents should be accountable for their actions.”
Speaking anonymously, a neighbor who filmed the inferno on his mobile phone shares his perspective. “It’s the usual modus operandi,” he remarks upon hearing the age of the suspected arsonists. “Organized thugs manipulate young kids, aged 11 or 13, telling them they won’t face any consequences. That’s the norm here; they send the young ones to the front lines. It’s a gang tactic.”
Tensions Unveiled: The Troubled Neighborhood and Its Impact
Les Fauvettes, a neighborhood within Neuilly-sur-Marne, has borne the brunt of the violence. The local library, shops, and a supermarket have all succumbed to flames. Ironically, it is also the home of many of the rioters themselves.
Aicha, a 23-year-old teaching assistant residing in Les Fauvettes, acknowledges the initial anger that ignited the unrest, even if she believes it has transformed into mindless looting and destruction.
“They’ve had enough,” she explains. “The same people always suffer the consequences. If you’re black or Arab, a gun is drawn and shots are fired without a second thought. When it’s a white person, they think twice before resorting to violence or even issuing a fine.”
A Divided Nation: Exposing the Deep Schisms
Mayor Bakhtiari vehemently denies any systemic issues within the French police force, although he acknowledges that some officers may harbor racist views. “Absolutely not, I cannot accept such arguments,” he insists. “The police, as an institution, behave commendably here in France.”
However, the actions of individual officers, like the one currently facing charges for the voluntary homicide of 17-year-old Nahel M., represent only one facet of the story. The riots have unveiled deep-rooted divisions within French society.
Remarkably, a public collection for the family of the charged officer has surpassed one million euros, overshadowing the amount raised for the grieving family of Nahel.