Paris is not burning but…

Maybe you have heard about the student protests and riots in Paris.
I live between Jussieu university and the Sorbonne university. About 400 meters from the Sorbonne, in the heart of the “Quartier Latin”.
But the neighborhood is calm. Maybe too calm, if I listen to the storekeepers of the Place Maubert. People go out less now.

The police are everywhere. Since the beginning of the protests there have been tons of Police vehicles on the Boulevard Saint Germain almost every day (see this short video). We can hear their screaming sirens pass under our windows day and night. Sometimes, dozens of policemen in riot gear are standing by on my street. Weird! Especially when I go out to get something to eat. lol
Policemen are okay with us. I know that they are here to protect us. Some of them even laughed and joked when I talked to them. (but I haven’t tried to talk to the riot police, I’m not that crazy ;-)

From where I live, things seem quiet. But we can see and feel the tension in the air. We are worried.

Near the Sorbonne or in several other districts, it is another story. Vandals, who are not part of the protests, come to break shops, burn cars, hit and steal people. I don’t know when or how we are going to solve this situation. How could the First Employment Contract (“Contrat de Première Embauche”, a.k.a. CPE) lead to destruction and chaos like that? That’s not the point of my post. But I’m stunned by the situation.

This is quite a mess. The troublemakers (“casseurs”) come from the far-right and the far-left, and also include youth gangs that come from poor suburbs. They are not really anti-CPE protesters.
Last thursday, 2,000 of them went to the “esplanade des Invalides”. Violent fighting took place. The gangs beat students, passers-by, journalists and photographers without distinction. There were also combats between gangs and police. Look at these photos and you’ll have an idea of what happened. This has nothing to do with the real demonstrations.

Life goes on, though, between daily routine and unknown events that can occur. It’s a bit strange; however, we have to deal with that because it’s not close to being solved.

(thank you Marsha, for the spell check ;-)

2 Comments so far

  1. marsha (unregistered) on March 29th, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

    Paris is not burning but it is becoming rather warm.

    Viewed from the outside world, it is perhaps difficult for foreigners to understand why the CPE has turned into such a hotly contested issue in France. We have a tendency in North America to expect the french to think the same way that we do here, when in reality, the mindset is quite different due to cultural differences. Having said that, it would seem that the CPE is a step in the right direction for France and that Villepin is not mistaken in this regard; however painful that may be for certain segments of the population to accept.

    Entering the workforce is difficult everywhere for young people. Rather than insisting on guarantees of long-term employment, they should focus on gaining as much experience as possible. Sometimes this requires moving around to different jobs until you find what you are looking for. Employers retain and pay well for experience, not youth. Let’s remember that. This comes with time. The fundamental issue is the national economy and ensuring its future. If the economy is strong then the employment question disappears. This perpetual revolution will only serve to keep France in a strangle hold and prevent economic growth. It’s time to say “oui” and stop saying “non” to everything.

    The troublemakers are a concern and hopefully, that situation will not escalate into more serious destruction in the city, which would be counterproductive.

    Bravo for your post in english, Sacha. It was interesting to read the perspective from a real Parisien.

  2. Pier Nodoyuna (unregistered) on April 4th, 2006 @ 9:12 pm

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