Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Chirac, Villepin, Sarkozy – votre périod d'essaie est finie

BORDEAUX - The city seemed eerily quiet on the journey into the center of town; the atmosphere was more like a public holiday until I got to the starting point of the demonstration at the Place Tourny. I was impressed by the size of the crowd that was gathered there from the start. By far the biggest demo I've been to in France.

After the usual speech making, the procession began to move towards Place Gambetta. Led by the students and the youth, the march headed up to Gambetta and right around Meriadeck. The students were followed up by the Teachers Unions and then the general Trade Unions and political parties. Everyone was chanting “Retraite du CPE, Retraite du CPE” – “Withdraw the CPE”. The marching bands and drummers added to the very festive atmosphere. The students seemed to be having the most fun, with many dressed up and waving homemade placards and banners.

The March headed along to the Place de la Victoire with the whole center of town being closed to traffic and the two main tram lines were shut down. Not that it mattered much as everyone seemed to be on the the march. Coming up to the Place de la Victoire it was amazing to see the whole square packed with people cheering on the marchers as they arrived.

Most of the Unions have vans mounted with loudspeakers and their members would gather around the vans to continue the speeches. The biggest attraction was one group who had marched with a suited effigy with four heads – including Chirac, Villepin and Sarkozy. The effigy was burnt as a band played and students danced around the smouldering remains.

One had the sense that everyone was there; not just students and school children, their parents and teachers, but also many others who are opposed to the law. The police kept a very low profile around the main march and when I left the square people were milling around, chatting and enjoying the afternoon.

A smaller march headed off into the center of town to the Hotel de Ville and I followed it to the Place Pey Berland where a smaller group was facing down the boere. Apparently there had been some arrests earlier and a group of about 50 people wanted to march to the Commisariat (the biggest cop shop in town). There was a strong presence of anarchists and radical left, and the odd clown or two, who sat down in front of the CRS who were blocking the road. The boere began a series of retreats until they formed a blue line in front of the Hotel de Ville.

Although some people wanted to continue to the Commisariat, the majority didn’t seem to be that inclined to advance much further. I left soon afterwards but all in all it was a great march. I haven’t heard any estimates of how many people there were yet, but as one banner read: “Chirac, Villepin Sarkozy – votre périod d'essaie est finie” (Chirac, Villepin Sarkozy – your trial period is finished) there is no way the government can ignore what is happening on the streets of France.

All photos by yours truly. An Album is kindly hosted at libcom.org galleries.

1 comment:

pete* said...

Nice post, and about time someone talked about the positive effect of the march without going into all that violence.

Good to see you were part of something big, but I expected nothing less!