Olivier Klein, at the Hotel de Matignon, in Paris, June 30, 2023. JULIEN MUGUET FOR “THE WORLD”
It was the evening of October 31, 2005, Clichy-sous-Bois (Seine-Saint-Denis) had just experienced several nights of riots and urban violence caused by the death of two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, electrocuted after having taken refuge in the precincts of an electrical substation to escape police control. Olivier Klein, then 38 years old, was the first communist deputy to the mayor of Clichy-sous-Bois, Claude Dilain, in charge of city policy. He had sat down on a bench in a corridor of the town hall, exhausted by hours of mediation.
It was another era, before the wave of terrorism, and that evening, about sixty volunteers, bearded men in traditional white clothes, mobilized by the mosque, had intervened between the young people and the forces of the army. order, limiting and then preventing the throwing of stones. “In an emergency, all goodwill is important, explained Olivier Klein at the end of an evening of extreme tension. Their presence helped calm things down. » Before adding: “I hope that we will not regret one day. »
Eighteen years later, Olivier Klein, who has become minister of housing and city policy, seems just as exhausted. The night from Friday June 30 to Saturday July 1, he spent it in Paris, and not in his pavilion in Clichy-sous-Bois. In order not to have to mobilize police resources, too useful elsewhere, for his protection. “I am challenged by what we are going through but not discouraged”he explains on the phone before leaving for Persan (Val-d’Oise), where the town hall was burned down overnight.
Feeling of helplessness
The minister took part the day before in the interministerial committee for towns and the crisis unit at the interior ministry. On France Inter, he declared on Friday morning that recourse to a state of emergency, as in November 2005, would constitute a “admission of failure”. The statement is less definitive, twenty-four hours later, after nights – and days – of violence and looting: “At this stage, nothing that can allow a return to calm should be ruled out. »
The elected official spent time in Clichy-sous-Bois to try to understand the seriousness of the crisis: “The parents and even the young people I saw yesterday only want one thing, and that is for it to stop. » Even the most seasoned mediators, he says, have felt a sense of helplessness in the face of young people, very young people, perceived as “uncontrollable”. With a phenomenon of“emulation” and D’“self-training” in destruction.
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