Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Manifestation in Progress

There has been a lot of buzz about the manifestation, or protest, that is taking place in Paris today, in reaction to the government passing a law called the CPE, having to do with labor, employment, and the under-30 set. I won't get into the politics of it--there's plenty of that sort of thing going on around the net. However, I live very close to the Place d'Italie, and began hearing the roar of the crowd and the screetch of the whistles starting at approximately 11 AM today. Last night the police used red and white tape to block off parking and most of the streets nearby (perhaps to prevent car burning.) There are huge colored balloons floating over the Place d'Italie, keeping watch over the crowds of people with banners, flags, balloons and stickers, as they stand around talking, occasionally chanting, smoking cigarettes and eating the hotdogs provided by the concession stand.

As I walked over to my local grocery to get some coffee, chocolate, and beverages, I snapped a few photos. Unfortunately, the police saw me.

    Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!


    Are you a journalist?

    No. I am a blogger.

    A blogger?

    Yeah. I do a blog. On the internet.

    You can't take pictures. It is forbidden.

    I can't? Huh. I didn't know that. (Though I didn't see anyone else taking photos, come to think of it.) Oh. Sorry. I didn't know. I'm not French. I don't know the french laws.

    You aren't french?

    No. I am american.

    I'll need your card.

    (No way! You are totally not taking this card! It cost way too much and don't even think about...)

    Um, how about if I erase them?

    OK. You can erase.

My heart was beating a rapid staccato as I tried to push the correct miniscule buttons on my camera to get rid of the offending photos. He stood looking over my shoulder as I dutifully brought up the last 6 pictures I had taken, hit delete and OK. Then he stopped. I asked, "Ca suffit?" He answered, "Oui."

I told him I thought his armor was neat. Kind of like the knights of the past. I don't think he quite believed I was for real, but I was. (I was being honest--it's kind of cool looking.)

Little did he know, I had taken about 30 photos. And I have one of him in his armor.

I stowed my camera in my purse, and went in to get my groceries, finding a nearly empty store. No waits at the checkout, and the whole operation took about 3 minutes, including the 1 minute 30 seconds I took to decide what kind of chocolate to buy. (Milka Alpine Lait this time.) As I left, more police were waiting outside the grocery store, and eyed me suspiciously as I walked to the escalator.

I walked through the mall toward the exit, and decided to go up a level to see the protest from above. It was beautiful--a sea of people and bright red, blue, yellow and white balloons and banners.

A security guard gave me 4 seconds to look, and then told me to either keep going up or go down. I said I wanted to take a picture, because it was such a good view.

    C'est interdit. (It's forbidden.)

Of course it is.

Disappointed, I took the escalator back down and fought my way through the crowd back to our apartment, getting bonked in the head with people's umbrellas, fighting through the litter which seemed to be everywhere, and trying to pass by the hundreds of thousands of people who were basically just standing there, stickers protesting the CPE slapped on their backs, arms, and behinds.

It will be interesting to see what the day brings.

*Note: forbidden to photograph the police, not the protest. Check my Flickr for more photos. I'll keep the police ones to myself.



At 8:16 AM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous Satsuki said...

Actually, you are not supposed to take pictures of the policemen, but of course you can take pictures of the demonstration or the balloons ! I can't believe they reacted like that ! They may be nervous after the last demonstration that ended so badly ?
Anyway, i love your blog, it is good to see your own country by the eyes of someone coming from another. Refreshing !

At 9:17 AM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous The Bold Soul said...

Odd that in a democracy where people are not only allowed, but ENCOURAGED, to protest things they don't like, that taking photos of those public protest is interdit.

Mystère et boules de gomme...

At 12:42 PM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous lauren said...

I'm impressed that these protests are all over the news here in the US (saw the police armor - very medieval/star wars!) Your perspective is interesting, but be careful - maybe take this as a day to stay in and knit!

At 1:39 PM, March 28, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

All over the news is likely the most sensational stuff--the most scary thing that happened near me was either the umbrella bonk (the dummy could have raised it a few inches, but no) or seeing these sort of torch things that burned bright red and gave off a lot of smoke. Other than that, I may have been given a sticker, but that was about it for the violence in our arrondissement.

But, the US news loves the sensationalism. I remember when I read Paris was burning last fall--many french people didn't even know there was a problem. US news makes things sound so dramatic--I guess they want to compete with Desperate Housewives or something.

At 2:36 PM, March 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if you could have seen some of the video of the cars being overturned,set on fire you wouldn't think it sensationalism

At 8:31 PM, March 28, 2006, Blogger Chelee said...

This has been on NPR all day. I was thinking of you and wondering how it was going.

Sounds very interesting...

At 1:10 AM, March 29, 2006, Blogger La Rêveuse said...

I have seen videos of cars being burned and set on fire.

But the French media doesn't show them non-stop around the clock along with anything else that may cause a stir. My guess is that there was no coverage on Fox news of the peaceful demonstrations, just the cars burning. In our area, they blocked off parking and towed cars so they would be out of the way. Did you see lots of video of that?

Sensationalism is: the use of verbal or graphic media to create striking or shocking impressions intended to excite interest or attention.

Sounds exactly like American media to me! And I lived there for 32 years--it's not like I'm making judgements without ever seeing anything. They have to have viewers, or no companies would buy commercials. It's how the system works.

At 3:39 PM, March 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have watched both sides of the protests---peaceful marches and demonstrations and car burnings---on FOX ABC CBS NBC CNN BBC etc.

At 5:50 PM, March 29, 2006, Blogger PutYourFlareOn said...

The cars that are being turned over and burnt aren't necessarily in response to the CPE law, there are casseurs out there who are just out there to make trouble.

Casseurs = trouble makers.

Almost all people who are serious about protesting the CPE law are doing it in a peaceful manner. I can imagine that the American media is totally ignoring that and just showing what the they think Americans need to see: cars on fire.

There are always two sides of the story and I appreciate French news and most foreign press because you get both sides, in the US it's their side and nothing else. Phooey!

At 5:01 AM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Sedulia said...

I take pictures all the time even when it's interdit. I have learned to have a small camera that fits behind my hand, and just be very discreet (or, sneaky). You can hide yourself behind someone, prepare the camera in another direction, hide it in your sleeve, etc.

They can't bother you if they don't see you!

At 9:58 AM, March 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Contrary to some belief we DO get both sides of the story. We can choose to watch any number of news channels---foreign included.


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