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CRIME

Fury over ‘wall of shame’ built to block Paris crack users

A wall erected to keep crack users from entering a Paris suburb has drawn outrage, forcing the government to promise new responses to a long-running drugs scourge.

Fury over 'wall of shame' built to block Paris crack users
The wall blocking a route from Paris to Pantin. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

Authorities bricked up a tunnel under the Paris ring road leading to the northeastern suburb of Pantin over the weekend after clearing dozens of crack smokers from a park in the area.

Several residents of Pantin and the neighbouring suburb of Aubervilliers slammed the so-called “wall of shame”. They demanded that the government find a permanent solution to Paris’s decades-old drugs problem to prevent it spilling over into low-income suburbs.

Pantin mayor Bertrand Kern called the government’s decision “shameful and irresponsible” and asked for an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex.

“It’s by nature a temporary solution for an emergency situation, and does not satisfy anyone,” Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti admitted to RTL radio on Monday.

He said the government was working “very seriously” on how to deal with the insecurity caused by crack addicts in Paris, a problem that reached a tipping point earlier this year when disgruntled residents began shooting powerful fireworks at users or pelting them with eggs.

In a letter to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo seen by AFP, Paris police chief Didier Lallement said that addicts had been expelled from a park on Friday because their presence “near several schools” had become “untenable”.

He added that the wall was a “necessary protection for the residents of Pantin,” which is part of the Seine-Saint-Denis department, one of the poorest in France.

Lallement and Hidalgo have crossed swords repeatedly over the Socialist mayor’s request for more supervised drug use sites, a proposition rejected by many on the right.

So far just one is open in the capital, and Hidalgo was forced to abandon plans for a new one in eastern Paris this month after an uproar from residents.

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POLICE

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window ‘may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack’

An 89-year-old man who was pushed out of his 17th-storey window by a neighbour may have been killed because he was Jewish, a prosecutor said on Friday, after several shocking anti-Semitic murders in France in recent years.

French pensioner pushed out of 17th-floor window 'may have been victim of anti-Semitic attack'

The victim’s body was found at the foot of his building in Lyon, southeast France, on May 17th and the 51-year-old neighbour was arrested. But investigators did not initially charge him with a racist crime.

Last Sunday, the BNVCA anti-Semitism watchdog group said it would seek to be a plaintiff in the case, citing its similarity with the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old thrown from her window in a case that sparked national outcry.

“After social media postings were provided to us, the prosector’s office has asked judges to consider the aggravating circumstance of an act committed because of the victim’s ethnicity, nationality, race or religion,” Lyon prosecutor Nicolas Jacquet told AFP.

He did not provide examples of the posts, but Gilles-William Goldnadel, a lawyer and commentator for CNews television, said on Wednesday on Twitter that the suspect had called out Goldnabel in messages, including one that told him to “remember your origins.”

“It’s no longer a question of telling us it’s the act of a mentally disturbed person. The truth of anti-Semitism must no longer be hidden,” Goldnadel wrote.

France has grappled with a sharp rise in violence targeting its roughly 500,000 Jews, the largest community in Europe, in addition to jihadist attacks in recent years.

The murder of Halimi drew particular outrage after the killer, who had shouted “Allahu akbar” (“God is greatest” in Arabic), avoided trial because a judge determined he was under the influence of drugs and not criminally responsible.

That prompted President Emmanuel Macron to seek a law change to ensure people face responsibility for violent crimes while under the influence of drugs, which was adopted in December 2021.

In 2018, 85-year-old Mireille Knoll was brutally stabbed in an attack by two men said to have been looking for “hidden treasures” in her Paris apartment.

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