In 1983, exactly forty years ago, the March for Equality began. It was already following a police “blunder” against a young resident of a “district” in Vénissieux, Toumi Djaidja, some time after the first urban riots appeared in this territory. This march across France succeeded in transforming anger into a political gesture, bringing together 100,000 people on its arrival in Paris, leading its organizers to the Elysée, and obtaining some legal progress. Above all, it changed the face of French society, for at least ten years, thanks to a vast cultural movement, caricatured by the term “Beur”, even politicized an entire generation of inhabitants of the districts, and of the rest of France, thanks to organizations like SOS-Racisme.
How is this march, a vast movement of indignation, peaceful, different from the revolts of 2005 and 2023, when the causes are identical? The context has changed: the popular education and trade union movements which were then able to accompany and organize the march, and pacify the existing tensions, are now bloodless, almost forgotten by the “suburban plans” and the billions poured into these neighborhoods to renovate the building (admittedly necessary). Moreover, political decision-makers no longer have the power they had then, scattered over a thousand and one levels of decision-making, institutions each endowed with its own agenda, independent authorities. Power has been diluted in a bureaucratic megamachine, with which the weak associative intermediary bodies no longer manage to build a project over the long term.
The places of debate, in the organizations responsible for supporting neighborhood actors, have most often given way, as everywhere else, to exchanges on digital platforms. This dehumanization of social relations presides over their brutalization. For lack of a visible, reliable, lasting interlocutor for some, others let their anger explode, without limits. As Victor Hugo says in Wretched, “there are mad rages”. And to remember: “The riot strikes at random, like a blind elephant, crushing. (…) Sometimes the people pretend to be loyal to themselves. The crowd is traitor to the people. The sound of law in motion is recognizable, it does not always come from the trembling of the upset masses. »
Read our archive (2013): Toumi Djaidja, the leader who broke the screen, then was forgotten
An aggravating factor, the police are always less present on the ground, on a daily basis, because of the modes of intervention imposed on them since the dislocation of the local police, in favor of an intervention police, always better equipped and more “effective” in violent situations. This has the consequence of regularly rekindling the painful postcolonial memory of a force that represses the young men of the neighborhoods, more often than it manages to protect all of their inhabitants. So much so that the fear of the police has become customary in this youth. Rarely a good adviser, this fear can provoke bouts of panic, sometimes fatal in innocent people, as in 2005, or offenders, which can be followed by bouts of hatred in those who identify with them.
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