France riots: ‘For the politicians we are nothing’
His brother’s badly burned body was found in the boot of a car that had been torched when Amine was 17.
Observing the scruffy high-rise flats surrounding us, he says, “My brother unfortunately fell into drugs early.”.
In one of Marseille’s most notorious neighborhoods, he and I talk about his brother, who trafficked drugs before his murder.
He grew up on the Frais-Vallon estate in the north of the city, a gang- and drug-ridden social housing project.
On a wall nearby, two young men lounge. In the harsh afternoon sunlight, drug dealers work openly.
Amine believes trafficking is a seductive choice for children who grow up here and have little money and few prospects.
There are no companies here offering higher wages than minimum wage… here people work as supermarket cashiers, cleaners, or security guards. We cannot be lawyers, judges, or accountants.”
The recent riots in Marseille weren’t surprising to him. A gun shop and other businesses were looted and vandalized, and a 27-year-old man was killed.
According to prosecutors, the man who died was shot in the chest by a rubber bullet called a “flashball”. The cause of his death is unknown, but it is believed that he suffered a heart attack.
There were riots in Paris following protests over the shooting death of 17-year-old Nahel M by police.
We’re always in the same mess, in the same misery, and nothing is going to change,” says Amine, “so I understand the angry young people. I don’t justify violence, but I understand it.”
So many French citizens have expressed anger, frustration, and abandonment as a result of the riots and their aftermath.
Mado is a middle-aged woman who lives on the estate near the former community police station.
The demise of this link was grimly symbolic of increasing disconnection from the French state for many.
I feel like I’m living in a garbage bin here,” Mado says. People defecate in the lifts and stairwells. There’s nothing we can do for the politicians.”
It is rat-infested everywhere here, says Mourad angrily.
In reality, we don’t have the same rights as others. Politicians claim there are no second-class citizens, but it’s not true.”
The profound rifts in French society – and their consequences – are perhaps better understood by Amine than by anyone else.
In addition to supporting the families of those who have lost their lives, he works to steer kids on the estate away from crime.
Marseille had 31 drug trafficking-related murders last year. The number of cases this year is 23. The victims were largely under 30 years of age.
As well as acknowledging the tragedy, the French authorities have also acknowledged the problem.