Mounir Mahjoubi, 33, is the son of a Moroccan bricklayer raised on the border of Paris’ Twelfth Arrondissement, the edge of the first peripheral belt of the capital. As a symbol of the banlieues, he embodies the possibility of a vast change, perhaps a sign of fairness. Yet how residents of Paris’ suburbs view the “Macron era” debut remains uncertain.
No matter how much, on paper, you can imagine the possibility of such a change, the profile of the new president mostly resembles just another politician who, above all, is “one of those who made it.”
Mahjoubi himself is indeed the son of immigrants, but ever since he was a kid he has successfully launched one start-up after another.
So even though in the first round of parliamentary elections the party La République en Marche won votes everywhere, even in the suburbs, there is something else going on. Insoumise La France, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, usually finished second place, but the most visible result of these elections has been the rise in abstention.
In Seine-Saint-Denis, the “banlieue rouge” par excellence, for example, the Macron party won two-thirds of the colleges, but the turnout was less than 39 percent, 10 points below the significant national abstention record.
Jean-Yves Dormagen, a political scientist at the University of Montpellier who has been studying the electorate of the suburbs a long time, pointed out that in these areas, a “deaf rage” and the feeling of being “on the edge of rupture” with the political system seems to grow.
In this sense, as revealed by the merciless data on the Le Monde blog Lui Président, Macron’s affirmation probably translates the magnitude of the disappointment for the broken promises during François Hollande’s tenure.
Hollande and Macron never actually competed in an election, but you can get a sense of Hollande’s presence from the very different ways the former president was received in two historic suburbs of the capital: the applause of an enthusiastic crowd in 2012 in Aubervilliers, and then, five years later, the scorning whistles and tight security detail in a neighboring area of Seine-Saint-Denis.
The appraisal of Hollande’s action on improving school and transport facilities is negative or rather null, while unemployment remained at record levels. These are among the causes of that ”territorial, social and ethnic apartheid” of the banlieue denounced years ago by his prime minister Manuel Valls.
Summing up, the only result achieved by the past presidency was a reduction of “urban violence” by 27 percent. A fact which, according to the Observatoire national de la politique de la ville was not, however, matched by an improvement in relations between the police and the banlieusard.
It is not only the repetition of abuses large and small, but the general climate of impunity that accompanies the police blunders, even in serious cases. The online newspaper Streetpress published a dossier which shows that, over the past 10 years, as many as 47 people have died, often in suburbs, following an “excessive” intervention by the officers, and none of the involved parties spent a day in prison.
These deaths were caused by the careless use of flash-balls, taser guns, tackling suspects to the ground or, more simply, the use of firearms even in the absence of a real hazard.
In the past three years, the following fatalities occurred, among others: 24-year-old Adama Traoré, tackled by officers on the sidewalk until he died of suffocation; 27-year-old Babacar Guèye, an undocumented immigrant from Senegal, killed by five gunshots fired by Bac agents (members of the elite police unit); and Rémi Fraisse, 21-year-old activist ecologist, killed by a tear gas grenade during a demonstration against the Sivens dam.
A judge, who declined to be named, explained to Streetpress: “In many of these cases, the agents should have behaved differently. But, especially in some social contexts, it often ends like this.”
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