A faint smell of burning still hangs in the air. From the classrooms of the Bois-de-l’Étang de La Verrière primary school, in the Yvelines, burned down on the night of June 28 to 29, only a charred carcass remains. Fouzi Moussa, Deputy Mayor in charge of Works, Town Planning and Human Resources, was on call that day. Since the death of Nahel, about thirty kilometers away, an unprecedented wave of riots shook the country. “It was a scene of war, with walls of flames,” recalls the chosen one. In the aftermath of the troubles, students, parents, teachers and staff were entitled to a psychological listening cell. “My mistress burned?” asked a child. Of the three school groups in this town of 6,500 inhabitants, two were devastated. Cost of reconstruction: 20 million euros, according to estimates. Fouzi Moussa turns to one of the stricken schools, on the barrier of which floats the white and red tape of the police. He wants to be reassuring: this damage will not penalize the 200 or so students deprived of classrooms.
The municipality had to brainstorm all summer to find a solution. From next September, primary school children will leave in the morning by shuttle to an establishment in the region located at the other end of the city, while the youngest will go to the nearest kindergarten. Donations pouring in from everywhere have made it possible to replenish the classrooms: tables, chairs, books, pens… “Thanks to this surge of generosity, the start of the school year will be normal”, guarantees Fouzi Moussa.
Normal on the ground, but probably less in the minds. If the riots have stopped, the tension remains, heavy with anger, helplessness and despair. In the underprivileged district of Bois-de-l’Étang, where the establishments burned down, the inhabitants remain stunned by the events. Christelle, one of the few to express herself openly, says: she saw the doctor’s office, the social security center, the maternal and child protection service gradually close… “We only have schools!”.
This mother of four children with her arms covered with beaded bracelets is furious: “These young people even wanted to burn down the crèche, while we fought to have it!” For Fouzi Moussa, accustomed to trash fires since his list (various right) won the municipal elections in 2020 in this former communist stronghold, “we must not try to understand, we are facing gratuitous violence”.
Yacine*, he would like the public authorities to question themselves more about the origins of this conflagration. “Politicians should make the effort to get to know us instead of confining ourselves to the category of ‘people from the housing estates'”, squeaks this thirty-year-old crossed at the foot of the bars of buildings in the district. “What Nahel went through, we are also going through it here”, says this father of four children, citing the example of a friend of his daughter who would have gone blind after a stray flash-ball shot there. a few years old. The resentment is there, violent, fueling a desire for revenge.
“How did we come to such an impasse?” laments Leïla*, a few steps away. This resident, appreciated by her neighbors, would like young people to once again be able to find places where they can express themselves and interact with “executive” adults – educators, association leaders… That the four mediators paid by the town hall make themselves better known on the ground. “How are these kids going to grow up if their only role model is hate?” she worries. In La Verrière, schools will not be able to reopen their doors for three years.
*Names have been changed.