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Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Saturday, November 12, 2011
Place de la Bastille / Paris
Photo by OneBrownGirl
My 9th floor apartment here in Paris is in Le Marais and about a 60 second walk to the Place de la Bastille, an important part of French history.  In fact, on July 14, 1789 the Bastille (built as a fortress in the mid-late 1300s and later used as a state prison in 1417) was stormed during the French Revolution and most of it destroyed by November of the same year.  In 1793 a large Revolutionary fountain featuring a statue of Isis was built on the former site of the fortress, which became known as the Place de la Bastille.  And that's a super short story about a very complex and interesting French history.

Bastille circa 1790 / East View

As I sit here typing, I can turn to my left and see Isis just outside of my windows and tonight, I could hear a ruckus coming from the same direction and I knew it was at the Bastille.  You see, Place de la Bastille is a very popular spot in France for protests of every kind.  And after an hour of hearing the chanting and roaring of the crowd, I decided to go out and take a look for myself.  

The back story:  Former president of the Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down from power early this year so that the newly elected president Alassane Ouattara could step in.  On April 11, 2011, the Ivory Coast’s ex-President Gbagbo [was] ‘arrested in Abidjan’ by French forces leading Ouattara troups, but after much bloodshed.  The French have a military base in the Ivory Coast, a country that is a former French colonial possession.  Now.  Here's what I gleaned from running outside to see what the protest was all about:

The Ivorian Popular Front (Front populaire ivoirien in French), a political party founded in 1982 by then-history professor Laurent Gbagbo (and a party expelled from Socialist International because of the Ivory Coast conflict) is mad at France (which of course includes President Sarkozy and the French army, gendarmes, etc. and also explains why some of the women I saw were shouting at the police).  According to the sign pictured "Right now the French Army and L'ONUCI are the police in the streets of Abidjan and the people are being mistreated.  Wattera [sic] is disengaged."  I guess we know what side the protestors are on.

I took a dozen or so photos (some of which are posted here) and then came back in to the apartment to report back.  Although the gendarmes were out en masse and I didn't feel threatened in any way, I imagine some people did...particularly since the group gathered was 100% African and this neighborhood is not.  (Just keeping it real.)  What about you?  If you saw a protest while you were on a trip, would you run toward it or run away?

Liberté, égalité, fraternité is French for Liberty, Equality & Brotherhood and is the national motto of France with origins in the French Revolution.  I thought it was appropriate somehow.


Aqueelah on: November 12, 2011 at 11:25 AM said...

I would most definitely shy away until I found out what the deal was. Excellent choice of words in the motto for the circumstances. Now I've got to find out why the French adore an Egyptian goddess!

Unknown on: November 12, 2011 at 11:36 AM said...

I stood BEHIND the police. :-)
Here's a place to start, Aqueelah:


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