Nina Droff with AFP
1:09 p.m., October 05, 2022modified to
1:10 p.m., October 05, 2022
The Forceval camp, in the northeast of Paris, where crack users had been gathering for a year, was dismantled on Wednesday by the police, with the stated objective of preventing its reconstitution elsewhere in the capital. Started shortly before 7 a.m., the operation was almost completed by mid-morning, after the intervention of the cleaning services, and only a few drug addicts were visible in the surrounding streets, AFP journalists noted.
For more than two years, users of crack – a smokable and highly addictive derivative of cocaine, baptized “poor man’s drug” because of its low cost (10 euros per dose) – have been moved on several occasions at the whim of the anger of local residents. Wandering Place Stalingrad, they were directed near the ring road, Square Forceval (19th arrondissement), further away. A wall, quickly baptized the “wall of shame”, was even erected there.
A thousand gendarmes and police deployed
On the instructions of Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, a thousand police and gendarmes have been deployed, including the new elite CRS 8 unit. The device will be deployed “over time” in order to “absolutely” prevent any reconstitution elsewhere. , we explained to the Ministry of the Interior. At 6:45 a.m. the gendarmerie trucks arrived. Some “crackers” took advantage of the installation of the device to leave the camp, without being arrested.
The operation took place out of sight of journalists, at the back of the camp where the dozens of people still present in the camp were gathered. The ministry stressed that this operation was “unprecedented since the phenomenon of crack has affected the north-east of Paris for several decades”. On the side of the associations of residents and traders, it is the “relief” which predominates, tinged with concerns.
“In our opinion, the conditions are not met for there to be no more open scenes”, warned on the spot, Marie Debrus, referent of the risks related to the use of drugs at Doctors of the World. “There is a dispersion of users and in a few months, we will see them in the halls of buildings”, she continued, denouncing a “humanitarian crisis orchestrated by the public authorities”.
For its part, Place Beauvau specified that “the wanted persons will be arrested, as will foreigners in an irregular situation who will be placed in CRA (Administrative Retention Center, editor’s note) with a view to their expulsion”. “The other occupants will be directed to accommodation facilities with medico-social support or to care units”. Everything was prepared upstream by the Regional Health Agency (ARS), the regional prefecture, the Paris Police Prefecture (PP) in conjunction with the Paris Hospitals (AP-HP), according to the Ministry of Interior.
“one year” to eradicate it
For the PS mayor of the 19th arrondissement, François Dagnaud, this operation was “inevitable and necessary to restore the liveability of our neighborhoods” but “not sufficient”. The reconstitution of the camp is a “risk that everyone must bear in mind and which is in no one’s interest”, he warned. Laurent Nuñez was appointed head of the Paris police headquarters in July and the minister gave him “one year” to eradicate the crack problem. On September 25, he promised that the site would shut down.
According to associations, between 300 and 400 people during the day and 150 at night, including 35 to 40% women, were present in this square. The dealers there sold the pebbles (dose of crack) in the middle of the consumers. “For a year we have been asking for the evacuation but also the care of drug addicts and crack patients”, recalled Melinda Bernardo, of the “93 Anti-Crack” collective, present on the site on Wednesday morning.
“We are skeptical about this evacuation, we do not have the impression that it is followed by what we were asking for (…) care and support for these people. We are afraid that it is bis repeated with a movement like animals and that is unbearable for us”, lamented Ms. Bernardo, adding that the residents oscillate between “fear and the desire to help them”. For a year, the inhabitants of the district and that of La Villette in Paris have constantly complained of attacks, thefts and other nuisances caused by the installation of crack users.