City Under Siege

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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


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  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.

    • 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. Incredible photos, Zhu!

    I just wanted to say thanks again for submitting this to the Byteful Travel Blog Carnival. This article has been included in the 13th BT Blog Carnival which was published today.

    So, if you could retweet, stumble, or “Like” the blog carnival, I would really appreciate it. It would also help people discover your article, too!

    Thanks again. Looking forward to your submissions next time! 🙂

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