Home » On The Road » French Spring » City Under Siege

City Under Siege

French love to rebel against the estab­lish­ment, and spring is gen­er­ally the start of “protest sea­son”. That’s why I wasn’t sur­prised when I heard a demon­stra­tion was planned this Sat­ur­day. But while the protest itself was fairly innocu­ous (the mayor wants to build a brand new air­port, some con­stituents argue that they are being expro­pri­ated), the police force deployed seemed pretty disproportionate.

Around noon, I noticed a chop­per fly­ing above the city, and the main streets were heav­ily patrolled by the gen­darmerie (sol­diers employed on police duty) and the CRS (riot con­trol forces). It felt like being under siege.

Mean­while, the demon­stra­tors were block­ing the city’s main arter­ies with a long line up of trac­tors (the demon­stra­tors being mostly rural folks, hence the symbol).

Even­tu­ally, the protest set­tled place du Cirque.  When I walked by, I imme­di­ately thought it wasn’t going to end well: some pro­test­ers were wear­ing “riot gear” (bal­a­clavas, boots, gas masks etc.) and seemed to be ready to fight. Mean­while, the riot con­trol forces were start­ing to make a move to sur­round the protest.

A few hours later, a fire was started on the tramway track, prob­a­bly with tires. Min­utes later, the police spoke in loud­speak­ers, demand­ing the demon­stra­tors to leave.

Of course they didn’t, and the fight started. Some threw glass bot­tles, cob­ble­stones (a French tra­di­tion) or fire­crack­ers. Mean­while, the police charged at the crowd, taunted by both demon­stra­tors and out­siders, and threw tear gas.

About time for me to run. I like tak­ing pic­tures but I’m no masochist: tear gas is a bitch!

I walked by where the demon­stra­tion took place later, and it looked like a war zone.

Cop Chop­per Above The City


Streets Blocked

Police Block­ing The Streets

Trac­tors Block­ing The Road

Ready To Fight?

In The Demonstration

Trac­tors in the Demonstration

Cob­ble­stone Used Against The Police

Tag­ging The Wall

Not Going To End Well…

Chop­per Above The City



Ready To Fight

An Arrest

In The Demonstration

After The Fight

After The Fight

After The Fight


  1. Hi Zhu,
    Great shots; I would call this pho­to­jour­nal­ism!
    I am at the point where another demon­stra­tion hardly faz­zles me.
    Just another day in Paris, I guess…

    Bises and have a nice Sunday.

  2. No mat­ter when I decide to go to France… I always get caught in a demon­stra­tion! Although I must admit that this one really seems less peace­ful than the ones I had seen so far.
    Great shots, they really tell a story!

    • The two demon­stra­tions French usu­ally fear are the routiers and the paysans, both can get vio­lent and messy. I wasn’t expect­ing such a fight yes­ter­day though!

  3. The only demon­stra­tions I wit­nessed in Paris were pretty pacific but I’ve been told that when the paysants get involved it can get pretty violent.

  4. I under­stand and sym­pa­thize with protests and demon­stra­tions — I do not under­stand destruc­tion of prop­erty.
    Amaz­ing photos.

    • I know what you mean, I don’t think you need to destroy stuff to make your point. That said, it’s not as bad as it seemed, ie. store win­dows were tagged but not bro­ken for instance.

  5. When I was over­seas, I’ve wit­ness ‘peace­ful demon­stra­tion’ but this would be too ter­ri­fy­ing for me as you know where I come from.….protest is a def­i­nite NO NO :)

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