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April 11, 2016


Manifestation Contre la Loi El Khomri

by soundlandscapes

LED BY STUDENT GROUPS and labour unions, thousands of people gathered in Place de la République in Paris on Saturday afternoon to step up their campaign against the government’s controversial labour reform bill. This was the latest in a series of strikes and protests against the bill and further protests are expected at the end of April.


The architect of the labour reform bill is Myriam El Khomri, the Minister of Labour, and so the bill has adopted her name, becoming the Loi El Khomri. She says the reforms will encourage businesses to hire more workers by deregulating many aspects of France’s notoriously rigid labour laws.

In 2012, François Hollande was elected French President on a pledge to curb unemployment and make ‘youth’ his priority, yet unemployment in France remains stubbornly high at around 10% and unemployment for the under-25s has crept up to an alarming 26%.

Hollande, currently the most unpopular president in France’s recent history, has said that he will not run again for the presidency in 2017 if he cannot cut the country’s high unemployment figures and he hopes the labour reforms will encourage firms to hire more staff.

However, pressure from the street and from parliament has caused the government to water down the proposals so that they apply only to large firms.

Parliament is set to vote on the reforms in late April or early May.


I went Place de la République on Saturday afternoon to mingle with the demonstrators and to record the sounds of protest.


Sounds of the manifestation contre la Loi El Khomri:


There was an almost festive atmosphere to the manifestation tarnished only by some masked youths who clashed briefly with police near Place de la Bastille.

Trouble at large street demonstrations in Paris is unusual and I believe one reason for that is the power of sound. Sound is an integral part of the demonstration; the chanting, with its subtle use of rhythm and repetition, creates a sound architecture that allows the people to speak and to be heard but it also imposes a discipline on the crowd as well as retaining their interest and enthusiasm.

It seems to me that if the demonstrators feel that they are acting together in an orchestrated way and that their voice is being heard then perhaps they are less likely to resort to indiscriminate violence to make their point.


If you want to know more about the labour reform bill, this is the complete texte du projet de loi El Khomri.


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. hmunro
    Apr 12 2016

    My gosh … I’d never before considered that “the chanting, with its subtle use of rhythm and repetition, creates a sound architecture that allows the people to speak and to be heard but it also imposes a discipline on the crowd …”. There may be a sociological doctorate in this, if you can prove your thesis! Thank you for another brilliant post that goes beyond merely reporting on an event by providing a deep insight into your adopted culture, though its sounds.

    • Apr 18 2016

      Thank you, Heather. Of course, I can’t prove my theory but I’ve experienced so many of these demonstrations at close quarters that I think it may be true.
      I always put myself right in the middle of the crowd to record these events – remember Robert Capa’s dictum: ‘If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough’ – and that sometimes applies to sound too. Being in amongst the crowd can sometimes be an ‘interesting’ experience, but it does give one a close-up feel for the effect of the sounds on the demonstrators.


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