My memories of Paris comforted me on Friday the 13th, 2015. When I heard that some of the recent attacks and frightening terrorist activity took place in the area of the Place de la Republique, I went to my photos taken early August 2011 during a three-week visit there to celebrate our anniversary.
Place de la Republique is an iconic landmark in Paris. The rallying cry of the French Republic “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is represented by carved stone figures seated around its massive base; and, towering above is a huge 9.5 meter bronze sculpture, the form of a woman representing The French Republic. Seven major streets converge at the monument on the border of the 3rd, 10th & 11 arrondissements. The three figures seated around the massive pedestal represent symbols of The French Republic: Liberty, is carrying a torch, Equality holds the flag of 1789, and Brotherhood or Fraternity, is seated on a plow. It was unveiled on Bastille Day, July 14, 1885. Red masks covered some of the faces; and, I’ve not been able to learn more about the exact protest they represent.
Solidarity with the French people is evidenced in the media as we see individuals, organizations and governments around the world use photos, lights on buildings, selfies superimposed with the colors of France, and even create new art to express friendship and mutual support with the people of Paris. By extension, it seems these expressions seem intent on increasing a sense of community between peoples in distress, feeling fear. Out of terrible events can come feelings and actions of support and togetherness.
“In Paris, rituals of political discontent are traditionally celebrated on Place de la Republique.” An article titled “Place for Protest” (Metropolis Magazine, Sept 2014) describes the traffic gridlock which previously occurred during protests. Two young architects, Pierre Alain Trevelo and Antoine Viger-Kohler, have redesigned the esplanade. “The angry strikers can still meet there—and they do—but they can no longer prevent others from going about their business. The venue proposes a new model for participative democracy in all-inclusive rather than obstructive approach.” You will see the monument in current news reporting.
Protests and demonstrations express solidarity and hope for change as well as discontent. It’s informative to view the 47 fabulous photos taken by France Info journalist Nathanael Charbonnier in his presentation “Five years of street protests by the French.” He also illustrated Tapage nocturnes, a “novel published in episodes about angry protestors (les Indignes) on Mediapart”. There were protests about intellectual freedom (ACTA), midwives, budget cutbacks affecting homeless and other people in distress, pension reform, education job losses, youth job laws, the suppression of unions, housing, prayers in the street, jobs for the unemployed, the justice system, shale gas, and by les indignes (“the angry”), and for the regularization of illegal immigrants.
You may remember that on 11 January, 2015, an estimated 1.5 million people, including world leaders, dignitaries and families of protesting the 17 people killed by terrorists during the 72 hours of the terror surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attack. Deja vu all over again. Fear is there—so is blessed Fraternity.
During our warm days in Paris we enjoyed such beauty, fascinating history, glorious art, and increased our understanding of beliefs and behaviors. Travel helps us better understand our world and its peoples. We spent a delightful day in the area of the Place de la Republique, enjoyed treats at a boulangerie nearby, and attended evening prayers at the nearby Orthodox Synagogue Nazareth. More about that in a future posting.