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.