Marcel’s drug problems and homeless schools came to light on Wednesday when French President Emmanuel Macron and eight ministers visited a Mediterranean port to announce new public investment.
France’s second-largest city is known for its long-running streets and crime-ridden housing estates, as well as its charming charm and intense local pride.
But as the April 2021 presidential election approaches, horrific killings and an increase in mass violence have put their long-standing social problems on the political agenda.
A presidential aide admitted Tuesday that “this is a city that is emitting many warning lights,” with Macron well aware that his right-wing challenger, Marine Le Pen, will be on the law and order platform next year. Will run the campaign.
With the three-day presidential visit scheduled for a statement by several members of his cabinet, the 43-year-old head of state will leave for the city’s northern districts immediately after his arrival on Wednesday.
“We are scared of this estate,” a 63-year-old social worker told AFP before Macron’s arrival. “When I come home from work at 10 o’clock at night, it’s deserted and sometimes you hear shooting like it’s a western movie.”
The poor relationship with public transport from the city center or the affluent areas in the south, the northern neighborhoods are the center of the city’s evil drug trade, promoting Marcel’s role as a major port.
Two people were killed in another driving shooting last weekend, while a week earlier a 14-year-old boy was killed in an automatic shooting near one of several locations where marijuana, cocaine and other drugs were being sold openly. Are
“Nobody cares what happens here,” a local resident told AFP this week at the unrelated Les Roziers Housing Estate. “I think they (politicians) think let’s leave these poor and foreigners to kill each other.”
Marseille’s chief prosecutor, Dominic Lawrence, told a news conference last week that there had been an “explosion” in gang-related killings due to tight-knit attacks since mid-June.
Twelve people have been killed in the past two months, according to police figures, but the level is lower than in 2016 and lower than in the particularly violent periods of the 1980s.
During his visit, Macron is expected to build according to recent announcements for Marseille: 300 additional police have been promised, while Justice Minister Eric Dupont Moriti has promised an additional magistrate.
According to the head of the local education board, he is expected to announce his support for the Socialist Mayor’s plan to renovate the city’s public schools, some of which are in a “disturbing” state.
Newly elected Mayor Benoit Payne has promised to invest 1.2 billion euros in the renovation and reconstruction of 200 of the city’s 472 public schools and is seeking help from the central government.
“Schools are not worthy of a republic,” he told AFP this week, adding that even living in Marseille “does not fit the sixth largest power in the world.”
The statement has given several interviews in recent weeks to warn many residents about the feeling of insecurity and the problem of drug-related crimes.
“If people are killing each other with Kalashnikovs, it’s because Kalashnikovs are moving around the city almost freely,” he told France Info in August after the killing of a 14-year-old schoolboy.
The city’s housing problems were the focus of attention in 2018 when two buildings collapsed in a working-class district near the city’s bustling port, killing eight people.
Angry residents on the street accused city officials of neglecting their safety after years of complaints.
burs-adp / cb / lc