“Workers don’t trash their work site or the means of production. So we will continue to do so. Because it’s necessary.”

Paris: We’re still here

Posted: September 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Reportbacks | No Comments »

Reportback on the events of Thursday September 15 against the Labour Law
Snake marches before the big “joint” march, and another snake march after.  After all, we’re still here, ready to fuck shit up, everyone is down… [Lyrics from On est Encore là by NTM]

[Pics and links in the original post. Square brackets are translators notes]

Before

From 6:30 in the morning, high school students were already throwing down. Some short reports are available here.

At 11am, there was supposed to be a secret meetup with some high school groups at Nation square, but the cops found out about it: tons and tons of pigs all over the square. While some demonstrators got kettled, about 200 of us (mostly higschool students or youth) regrouped in front of Helene Boucher school on Cours de Vincennes and decided to take the metro to Lyon Station.

There had been a meetup called there for 12h by the general assembly of interpro/interluttes [across struggles] to collectively refuse searches and ID checks before the big union demo and to head over there as a group. But when we left the metro, we weren’t able to get to the meetup in hall 1 of the station: too many cops everywhere controlling the entrances.

So we left Lyon Station in a snake march to go join the big union demo planned for 2pm at Bastille square (since the start of the movement, this was the 14th big day of action against the labour laws called by a coalition of unions). Quickly, dozens of riot cops charged and tried to disperse us. Running, sprinting, we made it to Austerlitz bridge. There, after a few minutes of rest, the time to check in with each other (there were a few arrests during the police charge), we set off again in a snake march through the side streets of the 4th district [4e arrondissement, a region of Paris].

At the end of Henry IV boulevard, at the entrance to Bastille square, fences and riot cops prevented anyone from passing to join the demonstration peacefully, just like at every entrance to the square. Protesting in a cage after passing through a checkpoint search, no thanks.

After a few fruitless, non-committal attempts at getting through together without a search, we scouted the area and found another entrance less swarming with pigs. So we set off running down Jacques Coeur street towards the entrance at the end of St-Antoine street (in theory, it should only take us about thirty seconds). But we hesitated and three cops show up at the end of the street… But there were more than a hundred of us! In spite of a balance of forces for once in our favour, almost everyone turned around. Then we talked about it, decided it was possible to get through, but the more time passed, the more the cops prepared, and the less chance there was of it working. And just as we decide to try again, the pigs unload on us with kinetic impact grenades and tear gas. This time, they’re clearly the ones initiating hostilities! After the charge near Lyon Station, here they are again using their weapons when nothing has even happened yet.

Even though these police attacks lowered our numbers, we set out again in a snake march throughout the 4th district, up to the edge of the 3rd. Chants like, “No laws, no work, let’s abolish both” flow unsurprisingly into lots of anti-cop chants (“Cops who kill themselves are half-forgiven”, “a cop, a bullet, social justice” [in French these rhyme and sound cooler]). Through the bourgeois streets of the neighbourhood, some tags are thrown up, anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois chants ring out, and a woman manages to pull of a solo auto-reduction in a high-end clothing store (big up to her!).

We’ve already been marching for a while by this point, since Lyon Station, and so we end up taking St-Antoine street towards Bastille. At the end of the street, a bunch of cops are waiting for us… Some plain-clothes cops point out two demonstrators and threaten them, using their authoritarian power to relieve their frustration at seeing a group of demonstrators full of rage and joy have fun in the streets for the past two hours. One got grabbed by the crowd control cops, but the other jumped on an opportunity and slipped away (big up to you too). A group of people all got kettled and forced to show ID by the cops, some arrests happened and although the reactions of the crowd were vehement, the balance of forces was clearly in the pigs’ favour.

So the crowd control cops finally managed to “clean up” this point of tension (where the chants of “Cops, Pigs, Murderers”  and “Everyone hates the police” kept up just like they should) and we had to disperse for good, each finding their own way through the police check points. It’s worth noting that some other attempts at getting in as a group succeeded through determination and, especially, patience…

There are formations of riot cops everywhere, several metro stations are preventatively closed, all to dissuade us from going to the demo. Ha, democracy.

The “protection” completely surrounding the entire march route is unbelievable, like we’ve already seen on June 23 and July 5, but it’s not something we can get used to: it’s horrible, a veritable state of seige imposed on proles protesting against a labour law that benefits the bosses, it’s just crazy. Hard to even imagine what it will be like when a real insurrection kicks off and the bourgeois feel some serious fear…

During

Ok, play your games, it’s all ridiculous, we were 13 000 according to the police and 40 000 according to the CGT [big public sector union].

On boulevard Beaumarchais, the lead contingent assembled bit by bit. It feels good to see such big numbers, a few hundred at the beginning, a few thousand over the course of the march (some say that we made up a third or even half of the total demonstration). Always diverse, with groups of demonstrators all in black and others more rag-tag, those against unions and parties and those carrying the union flag — the lead contingent, autonomous and combative, has carried the spirit and the energy of the demonstrations against the labour law since March 24. This time again, there were lots of banners and signs, and right off the bat, people started throwing up tags. A branch of the bank Société Générale got its windows broken to cheers and anti-capitalist chants from the crowd, which seemed to anounce a series of attacks along the march route, but the constant police present — especially along the sides of the march — did a good job of ruining the party, at least in terms of attacks against symbols of capital. Some advertising panels got attacked (their wood coverings torn off and their windows busted or tagged), but few other commercial targets met with the rioter they deserved. Instead, the riot cops made an unusual number of incursions into the march and repeatedly tried to split up the lead contingent or to separate it from the rest of the march. Some attempted arrests were prevented, with occasionally intense hand-to-hand combat and a spirit of solidarity that allowed us to avoid a whole bunch of arrests during the march. This meant there were tons of clashes all throughout: throwing stones, bottles, fireworks, and molotovs against tear gas, kinetic impact grenades, flash balls, and clubs. It seemed at times as though a part of the lead contingent had lost the habit of coming with good masks and swimming or ski goggles to protect from the tear gas (or maybe it was out of fear of the searches? or maybe lots were taken during the searches?). So the saline solution was pretty popular and the feeling of mutual aid was strong for many demonstrators, in spite of the police terror.

The number of wounded was once again high, the medic teams stayed busy…

The demonstration was much too short, between Bastille and Republic squares, from blvd Beaumarchais to blvd du Temple, but in a way it continued for a while in Republic square, with advertising panels getting smashed or tagged and giving the pigs a rough time at first with lots of different projectiles and some fairly impressive molotovs. But the pigs had the entire square locked down and it all felt seemed a trap, when we looked around in panoramic mode to assess the situation… Several police charges now managed to make arrests, in spite of our collective self defense and sending back loads of tear gas. The square was drowned in tear gas repeatedly, splitting the crowd up into different groups.

During this time, the rest of the demo arrived, or not, in Republic square, sometimes only to immediately leave again down blvd Voltaire under the disgusting watch of union security services and riot cops (those guys were really everywhere).

After

While Republic square gradually emptied, a snake march managed to break away to the north-east. We were about 300 people, with the cops on our heels, throwing garbage cans into the streets behind us, sometimes setting them on fire, while the cops attacked periodically with their clubs. It went on like this until North Station, where ten or so people were mass arrested — before being loaded up, one woman managed to get out of her  flex cuffs and dart away (big up to her too, heck yeah).

At the same time, a student general assembly was cancelled under pressure from the school (Tolbiac, Paris 1): campus was closed on all sides, fifteen cop wagons protecting the main entrance to the university from any intruders (some riot cops were even carrying rifles), while the passersby remained indifferent. An assembly of interpro/interluttes took place at the trade union centre on Chateau d’Eau street.

More than at any time since the start of the movement, we need to ask ourselves the question of how to continue without the unions. And more generally, how to successfully grow revolutionary currents in these movements without creating new herd behaviours, new parties (even imaginary ones), new leaders or other charismatic figures. How do we expand the self-organized, horizontal practices we want? And how do we further spread our practices and revolutionary perspectives beyond the lead contingent and existing struggles…

Nothing has changed but everything is beginning…



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