There were dozens of CRS (French riot control police) in full gear in front of my favourite bakery.
A block further, 12 police vans were parked in the middle of the busy Cours des 50 otages.
Suddenly, there were riot police officers walking behind me, in front of me and blocking side streets.
It was 6 p.m. and I just wanted two goddamn baguettes from the bakery.
I had no clue what was going on. It didn’t take me long to find out, though. A few minutes later, I saw a small protest marching through Commerce, one of Nantes’ busiest transport hubs and a large public square. Another chapter of the migrants’ saga—the camp is still here, and there seem to be more tents. Nothing changed. The migrants and organizations helping them are at their wit’s end.
This time, the protesters ditched the signs in Arabic and were carrying a large banner that said: “Osons la fraternité” (“embrace the ideal of fraternity”).
I won’t play the protest-crowd number game—typically, widely differing counts are offered by organizers on one side and the police on the other side—but I think there were about 200 demonstrators.
The number of riot police officers deployed to cover this small protest was completely disproportional and ridiculous.
Demonstrators stopped Place du Commerce and they stood there, hiding behind their banner, facing the police cordon.
They weren’t rioting, they were protesting, asking for solutions and support.
I’m ashamed of France. Arguably, riot control police can be useful after a football game or during very large events. But deploying so many officers for such a small protest with no history of violence is completely ridiculous.