Two Friday Protests, Two Different Approaches
After an odd mix of late afternoon weather in Paris on Friday, from sun to rain to hail, it cleared up just in time for the start of two very different demonstrations.
At 7:00 pm by the park at Solférino, members of Act-Up, Oui Oui Oui, the Pink Bloc, and other LGBT supporters gathered to protest homophobia. The small group of people picketed with signs reading, “PMA Pour Moi Aussi” and “Homophobie Tue.”
While they briefly held up two large banners and were singing and chanting phrases such as “Oui à la solidarité, Oui à la vigilance, Oui à la mobilisation!” the demonstration was relatively low-key and not hostile. The group remained at Solférino clustered amiably, as friends and acquaintances. They came together to remind everyone that they’re still there, that they’re just as much a part of France and want the same recognition as any other citizen.
Regardless of recent homophobic attacks in Lille, Bordeaux, and Paris, the gay-rights supporters who were there yesterday had no plan to hideout. A few police surrounded the scene for protection, but casually chatted together and were for the most part at ease. The demonstrators then parted ways after about an hour.
Meanwhile, the Manif pour Tous protest was only just getting started. Violence broke out around 10:00 pm after protesters started kicking the police barriers and throwing bottles at police. Tear gas was used to scatter the crowds, and occasionally police would rush out into the crowd, without warning, targeting certain members of the group. But the protesters did not let up and repeatedly provoked the police.
An eclectic mix of priests, a drummer, flare-bearers, and extremists lead the crowd in chants, songs, and marches up to the wall of barricading police. This demonstration, however, did not seem as unified in comparison to others lead by Manif pour Tous in the past. A brief tussle broke out between protesters, although it was quickly subdued when the police once again rushed into the crowd.
Groups of protesters confronted different lines of police, rather than all following one particular leader and direction. But the most hostile, provocative actions were directed toward the police behind the barrier of Rue de l’Université. While groups of friends conversed on the side or during a brief lull in the action, it was certainly not an environment conducive to dialogue.
This was day three of the weeklong protests declared by Manif pour Tous and continued, if not increased, the intensity of their agitation. Three days remain until the day of the final vote, and the protests will continue. And the demonstrators’ chants made it clear that this offensive would persist, calling out last night, “On n’est pas fatigue!”