05:52:45 pmCategories: Places, Politics, Riots

Riffraff of France

Sunday\'s message at Place de la Nation
Message at bus stop at Place de la Nation, Sunday 11th December

I should have provided a proper welcome to my blog from Charonne (as I’ve moved house) and to the new name (Cicilie amongst the Parisians), but I’ll leave that for later. We’ll jump right into the action with an in medias res report from this sunny winter Sunday. Today I went hunting for posters from Les Racailles de France (the Riffraff of France). This group, consisting mainly of girls in their twenties from the suburbs of Paris, has put up 300 “commemorative plaques” in key areas of the capital, saying things like: “A homage to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to construct and reconstruct a France which keeps them, their children and grandchildren outlawed from society. When will there be a law on the positive role of immigration?”

They ask, of course, for a law asserting the positive sides of immigration since the parliament in February voted for a law on valorising in education the positive role of colonialism. Not surprisingly, this law has been a hot potato from the moment it was passed. After the November riots, the hot potato has gained in importance and is now setting the political agenda of the Republic. Last week, the Interior Minister Sarkozy had to cancel a trip to Martinique because Martiniquais – from the poet Aimé Césaire to members of Sarkozy’s own (right wing) party – obviously weren’t keen on welcoming him.

The last week also included the bicentenary of the battle of Austerlitz, won by Napoleon. The government avoided turning up on any official commemoration, and the tepid celebration in fact taking place was eclipsed by the demonstration. The emperor seems finally to have turned into a persona non grata – for reinstating slavery. Hence, the headline of the day turned out to be not the battle of Austerlitz, but whether Napoleon could be compared to Hitler or not.

So Les Racailles de France seize the moment to demand a rewriting of French history. Immigration is not a yo-yo, they say to the newspaper Le Monde, and points out that the population seen as a problem now, was needed as soldiers protecting France in the wars. This and other groups continue the fight with words instead of fire, and it seems they have come long way in just a few weeks. The commemoration the 11/11, the day of the Armistice (ending the First World War), the former colonial combatants were hardly mentioned in the French news – in stark contrast to the same commemoration in Britain. (There, the recognition came in the late 1990s). Less than a month later, the colonial past of this country is present to the point of being able to set the political agenda day after day.

So, today I went down to Place de la Nation to see if I could find some of the posters put up by Les Racailles de France. I went around the enormous square-cum-roundabout two times. On my way I passed a slightly junky Christmas market, a chef opening oysters outdoors for a restaurant, half a dozen couples kissing, more than a dozen lapdogs (many of them dressed for the cold), a kid playing Gameboy as he was walking (as a Parisian kid version of the typical Parisian ‘walking while reading a book’) and many Sunday strollers and vegetable market shoppers, but I saw no posters from The Riffraff of France. Others had now put up sheets of paper in the bus shelters, in order to voice their opinion on present day politics. DANGER. SECTS, it said. And nothing more. Sects are very dangerous here in this country, I’ve learnt yesterday at a public meeting commemorating the centenary of la laïcité (the separation of state and church). Was the poster ironic or not? I don’t know. Anyway, the meeting, the dangers of sects and religion and the whole debate around la laïcité must wait for a now.

No feedback yet

Form is loading...

« Meetings, conferences, debates, demonstrations, concerts…Now what? »