I was walking from the station to school this morning contemplating all the things I was going to do over the weekend, when I saw a police car by the school…
To myself, ‘Hmm that’s strange, I wonder what’s happened.
Ooh if the weather’s nice tomorrow I’ll get myself some ice cream.
That’s a lot of students by the gate, I’ll use the secondary one’
I get to my lesson, I’m in the classroom with my half of the class when one of the girls burts in saying “La prof veut que vous revenez dans sa salle, elle a peur*”
We go back to the classroom where the teacher locks the door… odd
“They’re coming towards the building.”
‘They?’ There was a lot of noise outside and it finally clicked. There was a protest happening and judging from the teacher’s reactions not a silent and peaceful one.
“Now, this is what we’re going to do,” she said to the girls, “you have the choice of going and joining them if you want, but if you decide to stay I’m locking the door and it stays locked till they leave.”
“Do we get marked as absent if we leave?” is all one of the girls wanted to know.
“Well there’s no point locking the door, they broke those down too the last time” one of the others was helpful enough to point out.
I asked the teacher what this was all about. The protest was against the authorities trying to deport a student sans papiers (without papers), before he could sit his BAC (the big end of school exams). He had just turned 18, and so just turned ‘deport-able’.
A lot of the students protesting just take this as an opportunity to vandalize the school target the teachers and seemed to be the teacher’s opinion. This has happened before and the teacher managed to escape unscathed because she had access to a fire extinguisher. It must have been bad because she didn’t stop shaking for a second.
Luckily we were in the building farthest away from the entrance and the protesters didn’t make it that far. More often than not I work in the other building, the one they did get into. Lucky I wasn’t today.
I finished work at midday and didn’t stick around to find out how bad the damage at the school was, I was happy enough to wait till monday and get away from the mob. Hopefully it wasn’t too bad. I got to the station where my train back was ‘delayed indeterminably’ because the protesters were blocking the tracks. Though 5 minutes later I was safely on my way away from the heat of things.
This has been the second time so far that a violent protest has happened where I would usually be and so would have been caught right in the middle of things. The second time where I just happened not to be there. The other time was the protests in Nantes against the construction of a second airport. I’d heard things about this airport but didn’t realise how big an issue it was till the 22nd of February.
There was a protest, as there usually is, in the town centre. But this one got ugly. The most central tram stop (commerce) was burned down and the police used tear gas and jet guns against the people.
I just happened to be away that weekend unlike other weekends where I go to the centre of town, usually around commerce.
The tram stop on fire
It is true that the French like to be heard and if a French person is unhappy chances are you’ll hear about it.
There is always a protest of some scale happening in town if not there are posters around telling you about the protests and strikes to come. For the most part my day to day life is unaffected by the protests, the biggest inconvenience I face (if any) is that have to walk around a group of people to get somewhere, or that I have to get the train earlier or later than I had expected.
But in these two cases, whether or not I support the causes, I’m glad I was lucky enough not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Manifesters being gassed
*the teacher wants to you come back to her classroom, she’s scared!