So, I thought today would be a quiet day. My museum pass expired yesterday, after six days of intensive museum going. I decided to not plan anything for today, take it easy in the morning, write, do laundry, relax. I went to sleep fairly early, 11 or midnight, and woke up somewhat late, around 830. Had some coffee, heard some popping noises from the street below, and some that sounded like bicycle horns, and went out on my balcony to look. There was a bus parked across the street, and about a dozen people around it at the edge of the gardens. Some were wearing bright orange vests, the others had bright green ones. They looked like workers of some kind, perhaps sanitation. And they were setting off firecrackers. The first few noises startled me. Now, two hours later, I am still at the balcony, still not sure exactly what is going in.
It is certainly a demonstration of some kind, definitely political. Now there are hundreds of people gathered, many carrying banners, at the crossroads of my street, Gay Lussac, and St. Michel, just a block away. I’ve tried to read the banners and listen to the chants, but have only made out fragments. malheursement (unfortunately) chacque fois (each time). At times, people were chanting in that familiar rhythm from so many marches and protests, different words but always that rhythm – as in Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, NLF is going to win.
I kept watching, waiting, trying to figure out what was happening. I googled – “ strikes and demonstration in Paris today” came right up, but it said that, to their knowledge, nothing was planned for today. Hmmm. Interesting that they have a a daily listing, as well as that there was nothing listed for today.
Now, a couple of hours later, I have yet to figure out what the story is. At first I thought it was going to be a cavalcade , probably with the president. Then, I thought it was a parade, and they were gathering at the top of the Boul Mich to march down.
I have a pretty panoramic view, at least of the top of the gardens, Someone is now making a speech. He has a very melodious voice. I cannot see him at all, only the gathered protesters. The firecrackers continue, with brief breaks, and their pungent smell has been wafting my way. What was startling a couple of hours ago now seems almost mundane. The first firecrackers had no color, just noise, but the later ones had bright smoke trails. The first ones were red and then blue and I thought, ok, patriotic. But then there were green and orange ones, so I sacked the patriotic theory.
. I have finally been able to make out one of the banners. Syndicat des Ruralists du Puy de Dome I know Puy de Dome, have been there. Maybe I can look it up. But clearly some rural workers from outside Paris.
Now,after at least twenty minutes, maybe more, the man has stopped speaking and the throng is moving slowly away in a procession, along with the noise, down the Boul Mich. I don’t know how many more than the several hundred I could see may have been thronged further down, around the corner from where I could see.
I guess I was wrong about a cavalcade. I did see one procession of black police cars and one van, going down the street early one. Then, perhaps an hour later, there was another one, most likely the same one, going in the other direction. But it didn’t look like a procession that a politician or dignitary would be in.
At one point, I’d thought that the event was over. (before the man spoke) and that whoever they were awaiting had gone by. But no one dispersed, and so I continued to wait, making brief dashes to the bathroom and for food so as not to miss whatever was going to occur.
The small phalange (or is that an oxymoron?) of police officers standing by the entrance gate to the garden didn’t leave, and I decided to use them as my gauge. They are still there, five of them. Why at the gate? Perhaps to corral any errant demonstrators that tried to flee if things got rough? At one point they crossed to their vans, five white ones, and got out their helmets. And crossed the street again, holding the helmets, not wearing them. Perhaps 10 minutes after that, they crossed the street again, in a single line, and put the helmets back away.
It was only then that I noticed their five vans were parked on my street, parked directly below me and in front of my door. I hadn’t been able to see until I leaned over the balcony railing to watch where they were heading. I only leaned over for a minute, though, because I am feeling rather vertiginous recently, for reasons you will understand if you’ve read my previous entries.
Now, the sounds and people have gone. I had moved just inside my window to write, because I can't see my screen in the bright sunlight outside (.a shame.)The police officers were still there until just a few minutes ago, but have now left as well, so I guess the event is now over. I can see some colored pigments in the street where everyone had been gathered, remnants of the firecrackers, which people might or might not notice if they look down as they cross the street. I’ll try to remember to look when I go out later.
I looked across and up and down my street several times during the demonstration, never saw anyone else watching from a window. I suppose most of them are at work. Then again, I only saw one other person watching the Bastille Day fireworks from my building, and just one couple watching the flyover from the building across the street that same morning. Even in the street below me as I watched, most people seemed unconcerned and even unaware.
Just another Paris morning.