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October 3, 2010

Yet Another Manifestation

by soundlandscapes

I am not by nature a protestor. But I am delighted to live in a country that not only allows free protests in the streets but also a country that has turned protesting into an art form. In France the street protest or the “manifestation” is a way of life. The French do it all the time, they protest about anything and everything.

Saturday 2nd October – the axis between Place de Bastille and Place de la République … a solid wall of people marching, singing, chanting, shouting – protesting.

Paris has many beautiful sounds but it also has cold, raw sounds too, all of which make up the wonderful Paris Soundscape.

And what are all these people  protesting about?

Pension reform of course. While some countries in Europe are contemplating raising the retirement age to 70, the French government is taking the modest step of raising the retirement age in France from 60 to 62 – and the people don’t like it.

This was a huge demonstration, so big that the route was split into two parts. One part left the Place de la République and marched down the Boulevard du Temple, the Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire and the Boulevard Beaumarchais to Bastille while the other part left République and marched along the Boulevard Voltaire and on to Nation.

I followed the part of the demonstration heading for Bastille. As always, the manifestation was loud with people determined to make their views known but it was also, for the most part, good natured.

Whatever the rights or wrongs of the politics, I was only concerned with capturing the atmosphere of the manifestation but I was also fascinated by the tribal quality of the sounds, the chanting, the repetition of phrases, the leaders and the followers.

Listen to how one man by using rhythm and repetition whips the crowd to a near frenzy.

Street protests in France are often much misunderstood. What may seem to those who don’t live here as extreme political protests are in reality usually no more than ordinary people expressing their voice – a voice that is more often than not listened to by the Government.

Long may the freedom of speech and the freedom to protest continue.

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