When the French port city of Marseille was awarded the title European Capital of Culture, the bureaucrats were no doubt hoping the city would become a good news story. But along with the clinking of champagne glasses, there is also the sound of gunshots and police sirens, as murder and drugrelated gang crime increases more than 150 additional police have been flown in and the authorities are fending off calls to even send in the army to quell the problem. As Evan Williams report, the locals now say enough is enough and are demanding.
An end to the violence. Evan Williams Solidarity! All together! All together! They are the mothers of Marseille, brought together by a sense of outrage and grief. I’m here because I’m angry. I lost a nephew and I’m saying the violence must stop. They have come from the margins of society. To demand an end to the bloodshed that’s engulfing their communities. Violence We’re sick of it! And injustice We’re sick of it! The young people, our children , are the first caught up in the spiral of drug trafficking.
. We are afraid for the future of our children. This year, Marseille is in the world’s spotlight as European city of culture, but consumed by gang warfare it’s taken on another crown, as the French capital of murder. Tonight at about 8.30 p.m. a 17yearold youth was gunned down. Tonight, another young life has been lost, for the city’s hard pressed police, this has become the grimmest of rituals. What we’re dealing with here is a settling of scores, a premeditated murder committed by very determined men who used a highcalibre weapon.
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Last year 24 young men were killed in Marseille, many from deprived estates like these where there are high incidents of drug trafficking and weapons use. Marseille has become one of the most dangerous places in Europe to be a youth. Built in the 1950s and ’60s to house migrant workers largely from Africa, the city’s impoverished estates have become neglected, crumbling ghettos. I want to see for myself why they have become such a hot bed of crime. This housing development is the pits.It’s the most rotten. This is Kalliste, one of the Marseille most notorious estates or cits, as they call.
Them. It’s France’s poorest cit. Cits can be dangerous, nogo zones for outsiders. But local writer Philippe Pujol knows his way around. The drug dealing area is right at the back. I’ll park so that we can make a quick exit. We keep a low profile as he takes me into a squalor apartment building that he says is used by the estate’s drug dealers. After negotiating with lookouts posted at the door we head inside. We have been walking through the squat, it’s unbelievable, the stench of urine and excrement.
Is just overpowering and this is where drug dealers come and cut up the drugs, right next door to where people are still living on this estate. You can sense the reason why people may feel deprived and ignored. As we drive off, thankful for the fresh air, Philippe explains the complex world of Marseille drug dealers. A cit is like a small fortress. All around the cite are what we call choufs, lookouts. The role of the choufs is to check who’s there, who’s coming in and going out. to keep an.
Eye out in case the police turn up. They use nannies who are part of a system to ensure that drugs and money are never held in the same place at the same time. I’m oblivious to the youth driving by on a scooter until Philippe points out that he is a chouf, the sentries are keeping an eye on us. Like in the army, everyone has their role. One battalion does this, another one does that, a unit is specialized in such and such field. So they are a veritable army recruited.
By traffickers who are higher up and who we never see. Nestled on the Mediterranean, Marseille is a contradiction. Pristine beaches and chic elegant neighbourhoods sit alongside the city’s seedy gang lands. Its proximity to North Africa means it remains one of Europe’s main gateways for hash. It is also a major trafficking hub for cocaine. Despite the regular seizures police barely make a dint in the illicit trade. For the older generation, times have changed. There was no unemployment. No one was.there wasn’t even an employment service. We saw our parents go to work every day, sometimes on Saturdays and Sundays.
Sherazade was born here, a descendant from migrant workers whose jobs have long gone. Unemployment began with my generation. There were no problems of drug addiction, theft and so on. She shows me around the areas close to her home that have become dumping grounds for the city. Residents here feel forgotten. We walk through this every day to get to the other side. Like this. We live alongside rats. We’re not rats. Rats are tame. They feed like rats. They’re animals. We’re human beings. With feelings of segregation and few jobs, many young men turn to the one way they can.
Make some money. 20yearold Driss explains what that is. Drugs. Some go down that path. Some stay at home, like I do every day. Why didn’t you turn to drugs In truth, I did but I didn’t like it. It’s better to work. Why didn’t you like it Because of jail. Let’s face it. I don’t want to go to jail. And with the trade in drugs come vicious turf wars. Laurent Gandon is a lawyer who often deals with the aftermath of gang violence. Today he is in court for another case from.
The estates. My elevenyearold client got shot while playing football with friends. The perpetrator shot him for no reason from the eleventh floor. That’s Marseille. Laurent is representing the boy’s mother, Sarah. She is seeking jail for the accused, who is also in court today. Threats are made as both sides bump into each other outside the hearing. Sarah, is it dangerous for you to confront the accused Reprisals, I live in the same cit as him, so I’m likely to see him, I can’t I really can’t. They are practically neighbours. So Mrs Aidoud is scared to death to return home and suffer.
Reprisals. He shot her son. Tomorrow he could shoot her too. Laurent Gandon says he is concerned of the rise of gun crime, particularly the growing use of automatic weapons. Marseille he says is now awash with AK47s. Marseille has become the capital of the Kalashnikov. You can buy one for 300 euros in Marseille. They’re frequently used. There are thousands of them in the city. Sometimes for settling scores linked to drugs, but also to settle personal scores, disputes between neighbours. This has become an absolutely terrifying situation. Thanks to North Africa’s Arab Spring it has never been easier to get hold of a gun.
The recent events in those countries mean that there are weapons in circulation. It’s a new opportunity for traffickers to bring in weapons. Chief Advisor Fabrice Gardon is one of Marseille top cops trying to win back the streets. Today, his officers are conducting a sweep of a major trouble spot. We’re now heading to the Frais Vallon district. There are many drug trafficking problems there. There’s a lot of violence, a lot of assaults. Here, it’s paradise. Where we go, it’s. What’s hell in English I’ll park here so we won’t end up. with a washing machine through the roof. They throw.
Them out the window. We have to come in large numbers to create a balance of power in favour of the police. Youths can get together very quickly. Patrols of two or three police officers can come under attack. And they do, frequently. Projectiles get thrown at them. Thirty or forty youths encircle a car and attack the officers inside. We come across 17yearold Momet and his neighbour Hassan in the foyer of a building. Police have taken Momet’s keys to try and search his apartment. They think we’re delinquents. We’re not. We look for work. We want to work. We don’t want to work like this in misery.
Here too I hear that lack of employment is turning the young men in the cits to a life of crime. Some sell drugs. Most work in drugs. Unfortunately.What do you do if there are no jobs You have to work. These are packing bags. That’s for cutting, Cannabis blocks. blocks between 200 and 300 grams. What’s happening here really is that police are looking for somebody specific who they know is involved in drug trafficking. They are saying the entire community knows who that person is but nobody is giving them any information, which is what the search is about.
At the moment. Suddenly, police get word that a suspect has entered this building. I’m going home. I live here. You have a knife. I was taking it home. I swear. Why the two knives For my mum. Why the camera What’s going on Have you gone nuts That’s my mother and my sister. Sir.Sir! Stop it! Stop it! Careful! What’s this for Don’t touch me. I will file a complaint against you. Fuck off! For the arrest of a kid with a knife it looks heavy handed. But it’s all part of a new,.
Intensive police strategy to get tougher with the drug gangs. They have been setting up roadblocks, checking every car that goes in and out of the cits. The authorities have deployed 200 more police on the streets, and have installed dozens more CCTV cameras feeding back to this new control room. We work every day for the people of Marseille to be better protected. Caroline Pozmentier Deputy Mayor is advising on the $20 million changes. The police are faced with a new, very violent form of crime. Criminals today don’t hesitate.
To use weapons of war. They use their whole community in their drug trafficking activities. They hold the whole cit population hostage. The average age for joining this chain of organised crime is getting lower and lower. You now have women getting involved in drug trafficking just to put food on the table. So far, the cameras have only been deployed into the tourist centre of Marseille. There are plans for more cameras but none so far for the cits. For Fabrice Gardon the mission of policing isn’t about to get any easier.
The Chief of Police can’t give everyone a job, make poor people rich, make drug users quit drugs or turn parents who don’t raise their kids properly into better parents. Those are social problems. These are issues that socialist MP and district mayor Samia Ghali knows only too well. Born and bred in a cit, she says that the deadly chaos has plunged the estates into a state of emergency. That’s why I kick up a stink, that’s why I yell, to get to the top and awaken the President and the Prime Minister and so on.
As a way of getting that national attention, she has called for military intervention. When in a country, in a city, weapons of war are handed out like chocolate croissant, when you can buy weapons like a pair of trainers, I think that country is in danger. Neither accomplices nor guilty, we are all responsible’ Everybody agrees that the residents of Marseille poorest suburbs need hope. But creating jobs and opportunity is an impossible task at a time of deep austerity. All we’re asking for is justice and something to be done for the children.