At first, we heard shouting and screaming. Nothing out of the ordinary, since people shout and scream all the time in Nantes, especially downtown, especially on a hot summer night, especially when there are bars around and booze is being consumed.
People shout and scream for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, they don’t want to leave a bar but their friends are leaving. Sometimes, a woman passing by didn’t return the not-so-friendly greeting. Sometimes, the bouncer kicks them out. Sometimes, they are celebrating something—a birthday, a sports event, etc. Sometimes they scream because they are happy, sad, confused and mostly very drunk.
Drunks are annoying but we are used to them.
“What’s going on?”
“Sounds like people playing… some kind of game,” my dad guessed.
“Sounds like a fight,” my mom assessed.
“Sounds like a hot Monday night,” I rationalized.
It kept on going for quite a while and eventually, my dad stepped out on the balcony for a smoke.
“There are police cars downstairs”, he informed us.
“I’m gonna take a look!”
It was close to 11 p.m. I grabbed my keys and rushed downstairs.
I counted eight police cars, plus firefighters and a few unmarked cars.
They were all parked in front of the migrant camp.
I slowed down, suddenly afraid to stumble upon a scene I didn’t want to see—someone badly injured or worse.
“What’s going on?” I asked the first person I saw.
“Some guys tried to kick the migrants out.”
The migrants were all standing around on the sidewalk, most of them looking embarrassed.
If it wasn’t for the fact no one should be forced to live in a tent without access to water or sanitation, I’d say that the migrants are very good neighbours. Despite their awful living conditions, they are quiet, respectful and they mostly keep to themselves. In the evening, they often move to place du Commerce or the train station where they use the Wi-Fi connection to call home from their cell phone.
The migrants vs. the fachos, these infamous far-right supporters.
I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, the Front national made it to the second round of the 2017 presidential election. Plenty of French people would love to kick the migrants out. Last week, I heard several racist comments from people walking by the camp.
I chatted for a few minutes with one of the migrants from Niger. People came and tried to kick them out, end of the story. I don’t think anyone got hurt. “Who tried to kick you out?” I asked. He pointed to a few white guys chatting with the police.
Tonight, when I went to buy the bread, I noticed dozens of police cars parked a few blocks from the migrants camp. “New customers?” I joked. “Concert in support of the migrants,” the baker replied.
Two hours later, I went to have a look. The atmosphere was friendly.
The camp is still here. I hope the migrants have more friends than enemies.