Don't miss




Cameroon's Constitutional Court rejects last petition for re-run

Read more


Music stars, French art and a dead cat's renaissance

Read more


Khashoggi Affair: Evidence mounts against Saudi Crown Prince

Read more

#TECH 24

Next stop space: Japanese company constructing nanotube 'space lift'

Read more

#THE 51%

The Gender Divide: Record number of women running in U.S. midterms

Read more


Reporters: Brexit, a sea of uncertainty for fishermen

Read more


Fishing in France's Grau du Roi harbour, a family tradition

Read more


French education reforms under tight scrutiny

Read more


FIAC 2018: Paris's one-stop shop for Contemporary Art collectors

Read more


French ‘Occupy’ movement gets off to a slow start

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-11-05

Inspired by Spain’s “Indignados” and New York’s “Occupy” movements, angry French protesters have set up camp in La Défense business district west of Paris. But on the second day of the demonstration, less than half of the already few campers remain.

Like their Spanish, American and British counterparts, the “occupiers” of Paris’ key business district are protesting against the “current global financial system”: the uneven distribution of wealth; globalisation, bank bailouts and austerity measures. Heeding the call of an online campaign, at least 500 young demonstrators pitched their tents on Friday afternoon on the massive esplanade amid towering skyscrapers of multinational firms and banks.

“The goal is to set up camp and stay as long as possible,” the organisers state on the website for “Occupons la Défense”. But despite an unseasonably warm and sunny afternoon, the event failed to attract the impressive numbers its cross-Atlantic and neighbouring counterparts boasted from day one. “I was expecting more people,” said Julie, a 20-year-old participant, looking around the huddle of 20 coloured tents on the vast esplanade. “To make anything happen there needs to be a lot more of us.” Despite the disappointment, Julie wasn’t planning on giving up easily. Neither was Étienne, a 28-year-old student waiting to unfurl his tent. “I’m in it for the long term,” he said, waving his toothbrush and newspapers. “It’s not going to be easy, I know.”

Risking arrest for "a good cause"

Some ten riot police vans stood lined-up next to the protest, but the participants seemed unfazed. “We’re not stupid,” one of them told us. “We know that if we stay, we’ll get arrested. But sometimes you have to take risks for a good cause.”

At 6.30pm, the police made a first attempt to remove some of the tents, sparking a round of booing. “Don’t give up!” shouted determined campers. “They won’t do anything while the cameras are still here!” But 15 minutes later, the police made another push into the crowds, which in turn, piled into tents. “It’s harder to get rid of a tent if there are four people in it than if it’s empty,” explained one dogged camper, as the police shouted at him not to resist.

"France is not Spain"

Not everybody was as resolute. A growing number of protesters took to the outskirts of the camp for a more traditional, megaphone-enabled demonstration. By 9pm, half of the tents had disappeared. But the organisers were adamant that it wasn’t a failure and many braved through a cold rainy night.

“France isn’t Spain, where unemployment is rife, or Greece,” said Gaby, a 22-year-old student who hopes to become a farmer. “The movement is having trouble taking off because the situation in France is not that bad, but it will get bigger soon,” added Gaby. Julie agreed. “One day the French public is going to wake up, they’re going to wake up to the fact that we’re the 99% [of people who hold only 1% of wealth]. They’ll realise that we can’t allow just 1% to decide on our future and our spending.”

Date created : 2011-11-05

  • G20

    'People’s forum' brings optimism ahead of G20

    Read more

  • USA

    US city leaders call for ‘occupy’ camps eviction

    Read more


    Parliament backs austerity plan despite strike, protests

    Read more