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by Alex in Toulouse Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 02:55:16 PM EST

Today's demonstration was as large as the previous one (even larger according to both the police and the unions), and was just as vibrant. I noted a distinct shift from anger to festivity among demonstrators. People were here to have fun, not to demand and fight. Probably because the Spring break is coming up. Nothing much happened to me, except for a brief "intimidation" conversation with a high-ranking cop during which I did not, for once, feel like confessing to stealing candy when I was a kid. (read diary for explanation). Took 4 short movies that should give you a taste of the noise level.

Previous Toulouse demonstration diaries:
March 28th 2006
March 19th 2006

On my way to the demonstration, I crossed three guys wearing suits and ties. One of them I recognized as Bertrand something, some guy who was in Classes Préparatoires with me 13 years ago. Initially I didn't recognize him, but it's hard to forget a face that you've seen every day for a period of your life (we were in a dormitory as well as in the same class). I know he recognized me too, but he looked down and away, either wanting to avoid a pointless "how have you been for 13 years" conversation (we were never good buddies, just classmates) ... or not wanting to be seen by his yuppy work buddies talking to a guy on a run-down bike, wearing cheap plastic tongs. He was walking somewhere else, definitely not going to the demonstration. I felt strange after that, thinking "this is where I could be if I had followed his path and integrated one of the business Grandes Ecoles". Also thinking that he may have asked himself the same thing: "this is where I could be if I had done a telecom school and was a leftie".

Anyhow ... let's get started.

I love the feeling that you get when you walk towards the area were people gather before a demonstration. The streets are cleared of cars, and as you enter that zone you feel as if you own the town.

Time check. It's 2pm. The demonstration will start soon.

The TV crews are here. This camera man and his sound man ran towards an offshoot of demonstrators from the Arsenal (nickname of a Toulouse university at the core of the anti-CPE fight) saying stuff like: "Hey I don't know who they are, but let's film quick quick quick".

This picture I took from ahead of the demonstration, just because I found it nice to be riding with my bike on the wrong side of the road right under the vigilant eye of cops. (All the guys hanging out on the left are certainly cops too ...

I don't think I need to translate the sign on the left, nor the one on the right.

Ok the lead truck with good 'ol Pablo Seban is ready to go, and starts to warm the crowd.

Here is a short movie (5 seconds - 6 MB - Quicktime .mov format) of them warming the crowd.

Here we go ... (I'm still on my bike, and wearing a pair of shorts and tongs today)

"How to lose the Elections" (using the CPE acronym, and with caricatures of Sarkozy, Villepin and Chirac)

It's much more fun to be in the thick of the crowd, though my bike is becoming a nuisance.

I'm with the lead group of people, which includes musicians (there were a lot of musicians on this beautiful sunny day).

Now I've run off ahead, squeezing my bike through the crowd, bumping people and saying "sorry, sorry". And gone back to the perching place I was at during the last demonstration. But I won't be staying long today. Just long enough to show you that there were as many people today as there were last week. I meet the same woman as last time, she's come to the exact same spot.

And here is a brief movie from my perching spot (3 seconds - 4 MB - Quicktime .mov format) giving you a hint of the speed, noise and mood.

Like I said, there were musicians all over the place ...

Ok, a few snaps from my perching spot just to show you that the crowd is as thick as last time.

The girl in pink has a sign that says: "They are BIG only because we are forced to our KNEES". (referring to the government?)

The cardboard sign reads: "Army reservists rebel!". I'm an army reservist, so is Jérôme. Has anyone else here done their military service? (I did mine as a civilian, which means it was nearly twice as long as a regular military service, and which also means they put me in the reserves as a private army troop ... this was all part of the policy of trying to discourage people from doing a civilian service at the time. Now of course it's all irrelevant as the national service has been abrogated)

Ok I'm back on the street. It's definitely more fun to be in the crowd than on my perching spot.

This one needs no translation ... though I can point out that Neuilly is a bourgeois suburb of Paris. Hongrie is Hungary.

Ok I'm about to move with the crowd again, this one final shot from near my perching spot, but on the ground. It's harder to see the size of the demonstration from the ground.

I slip inside a union group just to take this picture. They don't mind. There would be too many things to translate on this sign, but it's mainly an allusion to milking cows (being bled dry with various aspects of governing?).

The sign says: "Confine cocks who have contracted Acute Sarkozytis" (ps: cock, or "poulet", is French slang for cop, just like "pig" would be in English, and this also hints at the Avian Flu). Below it reads: "In life there are those who think, and those who hit. Me, I hit".

This guy I just had to take a picture of ... (I mean before I move on from near my perching area)

Moving with the crowd ... the smoke is a bit harsh on the lungs on this hot sunny day.

A sign on a phone booth. The one I mentioned in my last diary, but this time pictured properly. "TVs lie. Radios lie. They are the voice of the goverment (with pun on "ment", which means "lie", in "gouvernement"). One dog listens to a gramophone "Equality of Chances? I must be dreaming!!" (ps: the name of the law which contains the CPE is the law for Equality of Chances). The other dog says: "Equality in Precariousness, ALL IN THE STREET".

We cross the Garonne river! A sign this is going to be a huge demonstration.

On the bridge ...

On the other side ...

We pass a park that would normally be packed with people on such a sunny day.

I thought this picture would look clever, but it sort of failed. I was hoping to get something nice out of the advertisement on the right which says: "Are we alone in the Universe?". The park I just showed you is behind the bars on the left. I have to stick to the side as my bike is hard to move otherwise.

We reach St Cyprien (a plaza). People are hanging out around, drinking beer.

Some kids can climb ...

There is a sense of confusion as to where the demonstration is going. This happens any time we reach a large plaza.

Later on. I took this picture hoping to show you the firemen on their balcony (left near the red Fire Brigade Sign). Throughout Toulouse people came out of their offices, stood in front of shops, leaned over their balconies ... watching us go by.

We cross the Garonne again. On another bridge further out, of course.

Shortly after taking this picture below, I bumped with my bike into a group of cute girls, who were giggling as a result ... I told them that it was kind of a challenge to ride a bike inside a demonstration.

This sign has Villepin as a monkey, and says: "the monkeyness of Villepin: hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing"

This sign I liked, for some reason. "The fifth republic - has been"

These girls were handing out crêpes. If I hadn't had one hand on my bike, and the other on my camera, in a thick crowd, I would have tasted one.

Some kids are perched on a bus stop, and look like they're here to cause trouble (honestly, they were a bit on the aggro side). We're still on the bridge, by the way.

This is the only picture I could take of cops lining up on the side of the demonstration. This girl has a sign that says: "+1 cop, -1 teacher = 0 culture".

And right after I took the picture above, this cop (I had noticed him before in previous demonstrations, he seemed to be a hot shot of sorts) came over to me and said "Hey Sir! What about the Droit à l'Image?" (ps: the law in France protects you from people publishing pictures of you in diminishing ways, and anyhow you need someone's consent to publish a picture of them, in theory). My first reaction was one of surprise, I was in a playful mood up to then, even just then cheering the girl holding that sign in front of the cops. I replied: "I don't intend to publish them" and timidly started pointing my camera again. The cop said: "no difference, you have to protect the decency of civil servants". Now I took that as a clear and typical form of police intimidation. I said, a bit hesitant, but firm nevertheless: "I believe that the Droit à l'Image means that I cannot publish pictures of people without their consent, and I do not intend to publish these". Cop: "Why do you think that journalists blur out faces?". Me: "yes, but that's because they publish their pictures". (but when I said that, I was beginning to be unsure of my knowledge of this law about images). Cop: "ok look I'm a divisionary commissaire (ps: very high-ranking cop), I've been a commissaire in Marseille, in tough areas, I've seen it all, listen to me alright?". (those were not his exact words, his monologue was longer ... but it more or less amounted to that). At this point I'm beginning to shift towards my usual "I'm going to tell him that I stole candy when I was a kid" self, but I resist the urge. And say: "Are you sure about this? If I don't publish these pictures then I don't see any reason for me not to take them, no?". Cop: "And how can I possibly know what you intend to do with these pictures? Look I'm nice, I'm not going to hassle you and check your camera, so just let it be and move on". Me: "Very well, if you say so then I will trust you on this issue", and I walked away feeling very sour. It next took me a good kilometer of silent walking just to digest the kind of ridiculous police intimidation I had just lived. The kind of intimidation foreigners live every day, the kind of intidimation that kebab joints live every night. It sucks.

I started cheering up again on a large boulevard, when I heard some nice drumbeats. Here are two short movies of those ...
The first one lasts 4 seconds, is 4 MB , and again in Quicktime .mov format. The second one lasts 3 seconds, is 4 MB and still Quicktime .mov format.

Don't you think Toulouse is a beautiful town? As we reached the Grand Rond (a huge roundabout with a park inside), I thought of taking some scenery pics.

We reach the Monument aux Morts (WWI memorial), which is cooler than the Arc de Triomphe because it's not in Paris :)

And it's over some time after (5pm). I was distracted between photographs ever since the police "incident" and couldn't really figure out where the head of the demonstration was by that time, so I called it a day and went back home (I had anyhow told this old lady neighbour of mine that I'd come and see her at 6pm to show her how to record using her brand new DVD recorder).

I love these diaries, Alex.  Thanks for being our intrepid correspondent!

The movies are taking a helluva long time to load on my anemic adsl connection, but the sounds are worth it.  I also especially like the people dancing in the last one.

About that police incident... I dunno a think about French law, but if the law truly just bans publishing photos without the subject's permission, it doesn't seem like he has any right to stop you from taking pictures.

But at least he was reasonably polite about intimidating you.  The Egyptian police (who wear exactly the same uniforms and riot gear, incidentally) would just smash your camera, and probably your head.  Sigh.

If it were me, I'd probably make a point of taking as many pictures of the police as possible, just on principle, but then I'd probably get my head smashed in, so best not to listen to me....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 03:34:42 PM EST
dur... should be I don't know a thing about French law...
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 03:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

About the dancing part, somehow the sound doesn't seem as loud in the movie files. In real it was much much louder.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:38:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I got grabbed by a CRS after filming a guy getting dragged away behind police lines, and he told me to delete the video. First I pulled the American card, telling him I was a tourist so what did it matter, but he persisted. Considering his firm grip on my shoulder and knowing that my french isn't good enough to argue him down, I deleted the video.. still regret not standing up for my rights more.

Moral of the story: way to get out of it.

by SplishSplash (dbcass@gmail.com) on Thu Apr 6th, 2006 at 12:46:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry about the video!

Since I couldn't remember who you were (or maybe seeing you around), I went to see your info and from there proceeded on to the blog that your info links to. I read David Cass' (is that you, or your friend?) entry on being beaten up by youths, and I've got to say I'm sorry about this bad experience, I sympathise with his/your anger (I've been gang-beaten once in my life before, and I can confirm that it isn't exactly a thrill), and am sorry about the camera, but I disagree with some or all of the conclusions a heated-up reaction seems to lead to. Indeed I find it manipulative to talk about youths beating up people for attention, when you have no more than a hundred violent youths in a crowd of 700,000 people in paris. That's about 0.01%. In Toulouse I have not yet seen any violence against demonstrators (or any violence at all, in fact, but there have been a few police charges against people trying to climb onto the balcony of Town Hall, which I wasn't around to see).

The CPE is a complex matter, and protesting against it must not be dismissed as an absurdity just because of a sour experience.

by Alex in Toulouse on Thu Apr 6th, 2006 at 04:11:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fantastic, Alex, what great pics and films! Yes, Toulouse is a beautiful city.

Pity the cop hassled you. You know why he was thinking about the Droit à l'image law (it occurs to me)? Because the police (the RG, the political police), break that law at every demonstration by secretly photographing everyone they can (obviously without their permission, which no one would give them since they wouldn't want their picture to end up in a police file). But you'll notice that on TV or in the press, you can see demonstrators quite clearly, which shows that the media flout the law (they don't have people's permission to use their "image" either).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 03:40:10 PM EST
There has to be some kind of exception for news media?  It just wouldn't be practical to have news photographers otherwise.  Or maybe does the law refer only to photos published for commercial purposes, like the US version?  (OT, I saw this article a couple of weeks ago, which says that the right to photograph random strangers on the street is being challenged in court in NYC....)

Hmmm.  Now I wish I knew a French lawyer.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 03:50:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure in fact about the law, except that I think it could be presumed you had everyone's tacit consent for taking their pics. You were right not to insist with the cop, though. You'd have got nothing out of it but trouble.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:30:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, especially a Divisionary Commissaire ... a regular cop may not know much about the law, or whatever, but this guy could have found something to arrest me for (something like: "wearing tongs in a demonstration", for all I know).

I sensed also, when he started telling me that he was a super robocop who'd seen it all, that his footing wasn't too sure on this law either (and that my pertinent comments were annoying him).

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:40:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Once a guy like that decides to give you trouble, yes, he can get you for wearing tongs or whatever he likes. The next morning when you get out, it'll be insulting an officer or resisting arrest or something like that. Not easy to disprove, and the courts in France systematically side with the cops.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:47:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Look I'm nice, I'm not going to hassle you and check your camera, so just let it be and move on"

Is a clear case of "Respect my auforita!"...

Very good diary. Will watch the movies at my work were I've got better connection.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 07:00:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm.  A friend of mine in Zimbabwe got arrested for insulting a police officer at a demo outside the High Court.  All he did was alert some photographers that someone was being arrested, and the police grabbed him and tossed him in the van too.  He spent quite a few days in jail, but eventually they had to release him without charge because his lawyer had collected statements from a bunch of witnesses who were willing to testify that he had never insulted or even spoken to the police officers.  The witnesses included a High Court judge, who'd watched the whole thing from his office window.

But absent the testimony of a judge in your favor, yeah, it would probably be your word against the cop's.  At which point you'd be the first person I know to be convicted of sneering.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 03:20:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]

OT: I don't know if it's a real word in French or if the protester just made it up, but Monkeyness is now my new favorite word. :)

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. -Voltaire

by p------- on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 04:09:09 PM EST
Thanks for a great diary, Alex. What a beautiful day in Toulouse today!

Do you think that cop made the same comments to every picture taker out there today or does he have it in for you? ;-)

by Fete des fous on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 05:43:03 PM EST
I don't think he could have made those comments to everyone (too many people), and I think it had specifically something to do with that girl holding her sign in front of the cops and me taking a picture of it. The girl was moving with the crowd, and just stopped there for a short while (because it was a place where her sign would come to life). So I might have been one of very few to take a picture of her (if not the only one).

I'd also add that I was kind of jeering and making little cocky sounds of laughter when taking her picture, which probably got Mr Super Robocot annoyed and prompted his intimidation speech.

That's part of the problem with cops. They act like thugs just because they know the law is on their side.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 05:53:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, you did take a photo of the cops, and they don't like that...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 04:42:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The University of Michigan publishes results of a study on job insecurity and physical health. According to it:

"feeling insecure about your job takes a toll on physical and mental health --whether you actually lose your job or not."


So ... down with the CPE, period.

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 06:44:52 PM EST
Another excerpt:

"In fact, the health effects of job insecurity are at least as great as the health effects of a serious or life-threatening illness."

by Alex in Toulouse on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 06:58:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary.
Thankful for your effort to go out and spend a day taking pics to post them ET.
by pavlovska (transbluency(at)mailcity.com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2006 at 08:15:30 PM EST
The Sarkopoly, from the Réso Anti-Sarko (http://www.antisarko.net):

by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 5th, 2006 at 06:41:51 AM EST

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