Relatives and friends of two French teenagers who were electrocuted as they fled from police a year ago have gathered in Clichy-sous-Bois near Paris. A plaque was unveiled in front of their school, and a wreath-laying ceremony was held at the power sub-station where the teenagers tried to hide.
The deaths of Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore sparked three weeks of violent riots in France’s poor suburbs as the young and unemployed vented their anger over what they saw as lack of opportunity and racial discrimination. The crowd gathered in silent prayer wearing t-shirts with the slogan “Dead for nothing”.
“It’s not by restricting them, or leaving them at home, or stopping them from going out – that’s not a solution,” said Zyed’s father. “The solution is to find them jobs, create training centres.” An inquiry into the teenagers’ deaths could lead to charges of negligence against several police officers.
In the streets, opinions varied on whether the situation had improved one year on: “Nothing has changed,” said one resident, “I would even say things have got worse – lack of security, bad behaviour by police, nothing has changed, it’s always the same.”
“It’s partly thanks to them that young people have more respect,” said one young lady. “Before, people used to say ‘Clichy, it’s the suburbs that’s all,’ now, people say things are changing.” Despite today’s call for calm, the anger – one year on – has not abated and violence continues to erupt sporadically in France’s poor suburbs.