The European Capital of Culture is also a European murder capital. Dateline looks at the realities of life there and meets the locals fighting back against the violence.
The city of Marseille in France has won itself two very different titles… it’s this year’s European Capital of Culture, but it’s also a European murder capital.
SBS Dateline's Evan Williams looks at the murky world of drug wars and gang violence that exist alongside the chic beachfront neighbourhoods.
He visits the city’s most deprived high-rise housing estates, where armed drug gangs virtually control the streets.
“Patrols of two or three police officers can come under attack, and they do, frequently,” says Chief Advisor Fabrice Gardon, who’s one of the city’s police chiefs. “Thirty or forty youths encircle a car and attack the officers inside.”
Gun crime is a particular problem, particularly the growing use of automatic weapons.
“Marseille has become the capital of the Kalashnikov. You can buy one for 300 Euro (AU$430) in Marseille,” says lawyer Laurent Gaudon, who often deals with gang violence cases.
“They’re frequently used… sometimes for settling scores linked to drugs, but also to settle personal scores, disputes between neighbours.”
Some in these no-go zones are fighting back with protests demanding action, and Evan follows a group of mothers brought together by outrage and grief.
“I lost a nephew and I’m saying the violence must stop,” says one protester.
“We are afraid for the future of our children,” says another.
But the authorities know it’s going to take much more than words to turn around years of decline.
Follow Evan on the streets with those fighting on Frontline Marseille by watching the video above, and read more on the Dateline website.