As everyone knows, after the dreadful events of two weeks ago, all mass demonstrations had been banned in Paris, which was a bit of a setback as that meant that there were Climate Rallies taking place in major cities all around the world – except Paris, where the Climate talks are about to start!
Well, fortunately, that was not totally true, as there has been the virtual rally in the Place de la Republique, where thousands of shoes (including donations from Pope Francis and Ban Ki Moon) were placed to represent the people who would have been there had the authorities allowed. And there was the human chain which had been agreed by the authorities along the Boulevard Voltaire here at noon today (Sunday 29 November).
So Ricky and I (the two surviving Climate Vision cyclists) travelled the Metro to Charonne Station and on emerging to street level found several hundred already getting in line. As midday approached, more and more emerged and joined in until there must have been 5-10 thousand people strung out along the boulevard. Ricky and I found ourselves alongside Jenny Jones (Green Party representative in the House of Lords), Christine Milne (former leader of the Australian Green Party) and a number of Green MEP staff. It was all incredibly positive, and peaceful. It was just good to be with so many people of determination and goodwill. And there was not a single policeman or soldier in sight. After an hour and a half, the human chain gently melted away.
Apparently, some people went on to the Place de la Republique to gather where, unfortunately a small number of people bent on provocation also went. And so followed a confrontation with the police who were a little too diligent in trying to stop the action – all too predictably, people were attacked, tear gas fired and around 200 people arrested. All we knew about it was when we were travelling back from the human chain, our Metro train did not stop at Republique Station and, as we passed through, I could see a couple of dozen armed police on the platform and people being held back from the platform. Unfortunately the media, ever-attentive for a dramatic story to tell, will doubtless focus on the violent few and ignore the peaceful many. Nevertheless, they can never take away the abiding memory of all those wonderfully motivated people.
One other extraordinary experience was when Ricky and I, reaching the end of the human chain along Boulevard Voltaire, found ourselves in front of the Cafe Voltaire, where one of the attacks took place two weeks ago. Along with the other people who were paying their respects, I found a white poppy in my pocket and was able to place that with the flowers and candles. And to offer a prayer for peace.