The other day we left our apartment around noon to go shopping. We heard sirens wailing and noticed a lot of people streaming toward and past us, and we soon found out why: a large anti-riot police presence at the end of our street. So, of course, we continued walking in order to see what was happening.
Hello! These were serious, robo cop-style police units that deal with violent demonstrations, and there were about 40 officers at the nearest intersection. The street was littered with trash, trash bins lay about in disarray, and there was broken glass on the street and sidewalks. And here we come, walking into this with our little grocery cart in tow, thinking we’re going to pick up a baguette.
Even though it appeared that the violence was over, with the demonstrators dispersed to several blocks away, the police were not standing down, so we thought a quick U-turn would be sensible. We could do our shopping later. Most businesses were temporarily closed anyway.
It didn’t seem like a good time to ask any officer what was going on, either.
Later on, we learned on the news that high school students and others, in solidarity with teachers striking for more COVID safety measures in schools, had blocked streets with trash bins, dumped out trash and glass, and clashed with police trying to keep them on their approved demonstration route.
Just another day at the office for these officers. You may know that striking and holding huge, sometimes violent, demonstrations is practically the national pastime here. The Paris police have had lots of experience in dealing with these events.
Incidentally, a bill is currently being proposed in France that would make it illegal to disseminate photographs or videos identifying police and gendarmes “with intent to harm” and critics have warned it’s a danger to press freedom. So, it’s possible that, in the future, a photo like the one I posted above could land me in hot water.