Sunday, May 3, 2009
Friday was May Day in Paris, considered to be one of France's most important public holidays, it is a time to celebrate the worker and to stand up for their rights. This is especially pertinent during the current global "crisis" ... when many people are losing their jobs across France and the Sarkozy government is trying to force through many unpopular reforms.
Across France on May Day 2009 there were estimated to be more than one million people protesting, whereas last year May Day marches across France only drew an estimated 100 000 - 200 000 people.
The rallies in France followed months of protests and strikes, including the ongoing strike at Hotel de Ville, and even a couple of "boss-nappings" where workers angry over job cuts held some managers hostage in an attempt to win concessions.
The atmosphere for the May Day march in Paris was a mix of celebration and seriousness. There were children in prams, parents, professors and pensioners protesting. The closest comparison I could think of to this type of congregation in Australia is the Sydney Mardi Gras (although much, much bigger, both in terms of the number of people taking part as well as in what they are saying).
Many of the streets which are often full of international and domestic tourists were full of people shouting and carrying placards.
Also sometimes it was difficult to work out which people were the protestors taking part in the demonstration and which were those on the streets supporting them.
Not all of the protestors represented local politics, there were also representatives from other countries supporting the cause.
We joined the march for a section of the walk in solidarity for what the were marching for and in our conern for what is happening to the average worker across the world.
There were many people wearing stickers labelled "Rêve Gènèrale", a play on the french word "grève" which is to strike, and "rêve", which is to dream. May their dreams and the dreams of all of the workers become a sustainable reality.