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The First of May in Paris

TUESDAY, 1st MAY WAS a public holiday in France – La Fête du Travail. In Paris, it was an opportunity for the whole spectrum of political opinion to take to the streets. The Left marched from Denfert-Rechereau to Bastille, Nicolas Sarkozy held a UMP rally at Trocadéro and the far-right Front National used the occasion to mark the 600th anniversary of the birth of Jeanne d’Arc, Maid of Orléans and national heroine of France.

Such a wide political spectrum on display and the prospect of interesting sounds to collect gave me quite a problem in deciding whom to follow.

In the end, I decided to follow the Front National, the smallest of the events but perhaps, I thought, the most interesting. Since I’ve lived in Paris I’ve seen, followed and recorded endless marches and demonstrations by the Left in various guises but never anything by the far Right. This seemed like an opportunity to redress that balance. I joined their march at the statue of Jeanne d’Arc in the rue Rivoli and followed it to the Place de l’Opéra.

Sounds of the march:

More sounds of the march:

At the Place de l’Opéra the procession congregated in front of and around the Opéra Garnier. A stage had been erected on the steps of the Opéra with a large backdrop featuring Jeanne d’Arc.

I arrived at l’Opéra about forty-five minutes before the speeches began so I had time to look around. I found this delightful lady whose politics I couldn’t share but whose personality was absolutely infectious.

I was also reminded that although this was a public holiday, for at least one radio reporter this was a working day. She had recorded some vox pops and was editing them on her Nagra ARES before sending them by satellite link to her radio station.

For the Front National faithful the centrepiece of the day came at midday with the speeches. Given the Front National’s remarkable result in the first round of La Presidentielle where they achieved almost 20% of the vote the speeches were eagerly anticipated.

Jean-Marie Le Penn spoke first. He is the former leader of the Front National and now the Président d’Honneur. At the end of his speech he introduced his daughter, Marine Le Penn, the current Président of La Front National.

Jean-Marie Le Penn:

Marine Le Penn:

After following the march and listening to the speeches (Marine Le Penn spoke for about an hour) I was exhausted. I did though find the energy to go to Trocadéro where I emerged from the Métro station into a crowd of 200,000 Sarkozy supporters … but that is another story.