Riots in France: According to the mayor, we were already in hell


Since the riots in France started a week ago, according to Zartoshte Bakhtiari, he hasn't gotten more than three hours of sleep each night.

He works as the mayor of Neuilly-sur-Marne, which is located east of Paris in one of the poorest regions of France.   .

By night, he serves as an early warning system for police battling the rioters there by patrolling the streets with a dozen staff members and city council members until 4:00 or 5:00.

He tells me, "Within days, we [were] in hell.".

Along with more than 200 other mayors, he will travel to the Élysée Palace on Tuesday to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the crisis.

He wants the state to be "more tough" and to allow the city police to use drones to monitor activity in the community.

He claims that the current state of affairs is the result of years of political inaction and weakness.   .

The issue is with authority because these rioters don't fear the law. They may appear in court, but they frequently return home shortly after the verdict for the simple reason that this Parisian neighborhood lacks sufficient jail space. This sort of state weakness is not acceptable to us. ".

The burned-out wall of the neighborhood city police station is right outside his office at the town hall.

Mayor Bakhtiari points to the fleet of seven charred squad cars, their ashen skeletons lined up beneath the blackened façade, and says, "They jumped over this wall at 1am with a jerrycan of petrol.

However, the public housing department, tasked with housing 2,300 locals, also shared the building.

The office is a shell of melted plastic and ash that has carbonized inside. Not every paper file was converted to digital form. The fire has destroyed the records for many of those who were in the greatest need of housing here.

Laurence Tendron Brunet says the records of many local people in desperate need for housing have been destroyed by fire.

Laurence Tendron Brunet, the director of the housing division, is sobbing as he stands among the destroyed buildings.

She exclaims, "I'm so sad.". "We're going to reassemble and begin again. However, there are people who are in such dire need of housing right now. I recognize the voices of about half of them when they call because I know them. They are individuals, not documents. ".

The arsonists were captured on a video surveillance camera, according to Mayor Bakhtiari, and based on the footage they appear to be teenagers, possibly between the ages of 14 and 16.

Laurence remarks, "I find it difficult to understand that children are the ones destroying things because at that age, your parents should be in charge of you. ".

We locate a neighbor who recorded the fire on his mobile phone and agreed to speak to us anonymously around the back of the building, overlooking the parking lot with its fleet of burned-out police cars.

When he learns the arsonists' alleged ages, he comments, "Typical.". "Organized thugs launch children as young as 11 or 13 into the event and encourage them to participate because they won't go to jail. It's customary to send the young children to the front lines here. It is a gang strategy. ".

Flowers and banners placed near the location where 17-year-old Nahel was killed by police in Nanterre, France, 3 July 2023
The fatal shooting of Nahel M, 17, by a police officer on June 27th, ignited riots throughout France.

Les Fauvettes is the area of Neuilly-sur-Marne that was most severely affected. A supermarket, shops, and the local library have all been set on fire. Many of the rioters themselves reside in Les Fauvettes.

Aicha, a teaching assistant who is 23 years old, also resides there. Even though she believes the violence has since devolved into looting and destruction, she claims to understand the initial anger that sparked it.

They're tired, she claims. It always affects the same individuals. Without hesitation, a gun is pulled and shots are fired if you're black or Arab. When it's a white person, people hesitate to shoot them or even to issue a fine. ".

However, Mayor Bakhtiari denies claims that there is a problem with the French police while in his office at the town hall.

He responds, "Absolutely not, I cannot hear that kind of argument."

But the actions of individual officers, like the one now facing a charge of voluntary homicide for shooting 17-year-old Nahel M. last week, are only half the story.

The other half is about the divisions these events expose within France.

A public collection for the family of that officer topped a million euros on Monday - dwarfing the amount collected for the family of Nahel.

.  "Maybe we have people in the police who are racist, but we cannot say the police [itself] is racist.   The police behave very well here in France. "

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