Residents of the French suburb Pantin, are protesting and fuming over a “wall of shame” erected after dozens of crack users were moved into the area the very same day.
The wall was suddenly erected last Friday without consulting local authorities and connects Paris to its poorest suburbs in Seine-Saint-Denis. Residents discovered the new tunnel blockage via social media or the press after it was built.
According to France24, “For the residents of Pantin, the wall blocks a pedestrian walkway to the capital, fails to protect them from Paris’s decades-long crack problem, and symbolizes their segregation from the affluent French capital.”
At least 80 addicts were bussed into the area last Friday, with dozens more to follow.
The surprise move made by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin infuriated Pantin mayor Bertrand Kern, who called the government’s actions “shameful and irresponsible” and requested an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex.
“It’s a terrible message to send to the suburbs, particularly to the youth of Seine-Saint-Denis,” said Pantin municipal council member Geoffrey Carvalhinho.
“It’s a disgrace,” he added. “It’s creating a divide between Paris and one of its suburbs. On one side, you have the rich; on the other, the proletarians.”
Residents became particularly salty that Darminin had chosen Place Auguste Baron as the new “home” for crack smokers when he said, “it was far from residents.” Pantin is far from desolate.
The wall forces Pantin residents to “run the gauntlet” through dozens of crack users just to do their everyday things, like go to work or take their children to school.
Residents aren’t upset with the drug users themselves but with the government’s poor handling of the situation. Protestors and their signs cried out for a serious long-term solution, “Treat them, protect us” and “Pantin is better off without Darmanin.”
“We’re ghosts are we?” said Madame Eissa, 36, mother of two, as she pointed at the many buildings flowing with locals. “Those people never set foot here, so how would they know what’s going on.
“I’m really, really disgusted,” she continued. “I don’t want to be afraid to come home in the evening and have to watch my back. I feel a bit vulnerable here with my two children. If I’m attacked, there’s little I can do.”
Paris has been dealing with a crack epidemic for decades. Since the 1980s, users had taken shelter on France’s notorious “Crack Hill” until 2019, when it was dismantled.
French authorities have been rounding up addicts and shepherding them into areas in hopes of keeping their presence from affecting local communities.
The plan continues to backfire as it simply moves addicts from one area to another. Their ad hoc approach has instead made citizens furiously demand a permanent solution.
A wall wasn’t what they had in mind.
“Building a wall to separate Paris from the suburbs is a disgrace,” said Rani Idiri, owner of a local coffee shop, Flash Bar. He claims the quality of life has crumbled over the last 15 years. “On a political level, this wall is a disgrace — it’s the shame of France.
“There are huge parks in Paris — the Jardin du Luxembourg, Boulogne and Vincennes. Why bring them here?”
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