Tuesday, April 28, 2009
La ronde des obstinés tourne toujours!
There has been an ongoing protest outside the Hôtel de Ville by the universities of Paris, a circular march being undertaken 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, since late February. Often there are only a handful of marchers present, always walking in their circle, but they are always there, undertaking their unique form of protest.
There have also been several other strikes in protest of the Sarkozy government’s planned reforms, specifically to the universities and hospitals.
Today there were widespread protests by students and lectures and the hospitals.
There is an article and some interesting comments from the Guardian here.
Today, as I walked home in the rain, I followed a group of marchers who made their way across the Ile De La Cite (which contains many of Paris' government buildings) to the Hôtel de Ville, where they joined the largest group of protestors I have seen there.
Within only a few minutes the first van loads of police arrived, perhaps a dozen or more vans in a loud convoy, and surrounded the square outside Hôtel de Ville. The protestors had spread and the circle was taking up much of the square. More police vans were seen to circle to other areas very close by.
As I observed what was happening a researcher from one of the universities who was walking in the circle started to explain why they were protesting and asked me to join them.
He explained, as we walked in the growing circle, that the circular protest of the stubborn, the "La ronde des obstinés" was in response to the reforms which are being forced upon the universities and hospitals.
Some of the universities were no longer holding classes, although at the university where he worked they were still holding classes and grading the student’s papers, but not providing that information to the university administration. However, his monologue was repeatedly broken by the ever growing presence of the police.
He also explained that there had been several occasions in recent times when police had detained protestors, although not yet in Paris. Apparently this is the most unsettled the university system ... this includes students, teachers, researchers and the administrative staff ... have been since the infamous May 1968 riots.
Eventually the police presence grew too much for him and the researcher decided to break from the circle to ask the police why they were there.
I remained walking in the circle for a short while longer then also broke to take some more photographs. At this time the riot squad turned up with their perspex shields and tear gas. The police presence now almost equalled the protestors, but everyone maintained their place, the protestors walking their eternal circle around the square, the police in line surrounding it and all was relatively peaceful apart from the occasional jeer from the protestors.
Eventually the police who arrived initially withdrew, leaving only the riot police surrounding the square. After an hour and a half I also withdrew and continued my journey home.
This is one of the things I like about the French, they stand up for what they believe in, day and night if necessary. The last public action in Brisbane which I participated in was to protest the invasion of Iraq and the war which followed. The first protest was attended by approximately ten thousand people, but the Australian government chose to send troops regardless of public opinion. The next public protest in Brisbane was attended by only several hundred.
As the La ronde des obstinés tourne toujours, I’m sure they will be there tomorrow. If you want to see them in action, you can watch on this web cam