The movement that can change the world as we know it
On March 31, 2016, the French population has risen to protest against the labor reforms, known as the Loi Travail or the El Khomri Law, which would make it easier for employers to fire workers. The unpopularity of the proposed law has brought one million people to protest against the government in Paris. The idea of the meeting and of occupying the city came to François Ruffin, the founder of the left-wing journal Fakir. The only way to scare the government was to stay and not go home. So, Place de la République has been occupied since that day.
But occupying the square has defied also the ban on mass demonstrations under the ongoing state of emergency declared by the government after the Paris attacks in November. Police has tried many times to clear the square but in the morning they were there again.
The protesters have been gathering every night at 6 pm to conduct a popular assembly where the individuals take turns to speak for two minutes at a time and vote by hand gestures. With two weeks passing by, the assemblies have been taking place mostly in the center but soon expanding into the banlieues, or suburbs.
They declared to be wary of mainstream media coverage and decided to communicate through their own radio and TV stations, or broadcast over the Internet (YouTube). They have included also their own newspaper, 20 mille luttes. But they have used also famous social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, to let the message be known without censorship. By utilizing the app Periscope, they have been able to live-stream the events over the smartphone.
Born as a protest against the El Khomri Law, it escalated to include a broader set of themes, such as the call for a universal basic income, amnesty for undocumented migrants, solidarity with refugees, and also feminist issues and safety of sex workers.
Many things have changed from the beginning of the protest and the French economist, Frèdéric Lordon, has brought a new challenging idea, the rewriting of the French constitution. To this conclusion, the movement has begun discussing the most important points, for example the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, and a granted ownership to those who derive use value from capital. Other important suggestions were how the government should be selected (by drawing lots) or that elected officials should be subject to a recall by voters. To ring back to the French Revolution, they have rewritten the calendar (all dates following the March 31 protest have been renamed as a continuation of the month of March).
The movement has received a favorable support from the broad public and from the left of the political wing, otherwise being condemned by the parties of the right.
The entire world is paying attention to this movement and on May 7th and 8th, an international meeting of Nuit Debout has taken place at Place de la République. Activists and citizens from everywhere have met, debated and shared their experiences and build solutions through debates and assemblies.
On 7th May the protesters have filled Paris with thousands of people, coming from every part of the world. Assemblies have taken place but due to the last turbulences between police and some protester committing violence, police forces have interrupted the actions of the movement many times. On Sunday 8th May, they have taken some pacific action of occupation, including the one of the Lego Shop in Paris in order to protest against the possibility of opening shops on Sundays.
During the two-days’ protest, the program for the 15th May has been decided and everyone is looking at that day as a resolution one.
Chrisafis A., 2016 “Nuit Debout protesters occupy French cities in revolutionary call for change” The Guardian, 8th April.
Lichfield J., 2016 “Police remove Nuit Debout protesters but the ‘revolution’ is set to continue” The Independent, 11th April.
Haski P., 2016 “Nuit Debout protests are confirmation that France’s political system is broken” The Guardian, 13th April.