Commotion on Boulevard Charonne

For years, I’ve passed this building around the corner from me on Boulevard Charonne and wondered why it hadn’t yet been squatted. It’s a huge abandoned space that could definitely be put to better use.

Well, looks like I wasn’t the only one thinking along those lines.

Though actually, it was the huge abandoned building next door to it that became the site of the scene. (I guess the former post office building just intrigued me more).

Site of a scene, Boulevard Charonne

On Saturday, 100 people from the group CIP-IDF (Coordination des Intermittents et Precaires – Ile-de-France) took over the building located at 63-65 Boulevard Charonne and were forcibly taken out by police. This group was apparently evicted from another space in the 19th and has been petitioning the Mairie de 11eme for awhile now to move into this one. No response.

I walked by the building just as things were starting. I saw about 20 policemen already on the street and many more police vans driving up, one after the other, rapid-fire.But I couldn’t see why yet – there were no protesters visible. Needless to say, I wanted to know what this was about, but I was running late for an appointment.

That night at a party I ran into someone who had been trapped in the bar across the street (what are the chances?) and he said things got pretty heated.

The main sign read: “We need space to exist in the world.”

Whether people should occupy spaces to which they have no legal right is of course debatable and probably depends on your political leanings. But one thing is for sure: in a city this expensive it’s natural to look at abandoned buildings like these and think there must be a better use for them than simply to sit there idle. This group went beyond thinking and went into action mode. I wonder what happens next…

Here’s a brief video clip of what went down in the ‘hood (after a 15-second ad):
La CIP-IDF délogée boulevard de Charonne par lesinrocks

8 Responses to “Commotion on Boulevard Charonne”

  1. 1 Franck March 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    It is good to hear again the leitmotiv :

    Li-bé-rez nos ca-ma-rades ! Li-bé-rez nos ca-ma-rades !

    Who said that the French were not friendly?

    Because a stupid French law about housing, it is more financially attractive for a major owner to let a building unleased than to rent it or to sale it.

    Especially in Paris because the property speculation.


  2. 3 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) March 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    It was really interesting in the video when the police asked the videographer for his journalist card. (And even more interesting to me that I *understood* that was what was going on! Yay me! Progress is possible…)

    I am so concerned about housing in Paris right now. It’s something I keep thinking about. Like Franck wrote up there: “Because a stupid French law about housing, it is more financially attractive for a major owner to let a building unleased than to rent it or to sale it.”

    I have heard about this. I have heard other things, too, like about how owners hold on to property without renting it because it is so difficult to evict a tenant after they have signed a lease — part of that law Franck writes about. I have read about how there is actually a lot of empty property & that speculation is driving prices so high in Paris, it may create a bubble. Will the bubble burst or will it continue to go higher, driving all middle-class residents out? It’s going to be interesting to see. I personally think it could be verging on a crisis, and the fact that things like you write about here are going on is some evidence of it.

    Paris does need to keep its housing affordable to the majority of the population or it is going to have some pretty complex problems on its government’s hands, IMO.

    Thanks for posting about this…


    • 4 paris (im)perfect March 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm

      Yeah, it kind of makes you ill, right? All that empty property when people are scrambling for affordable places to live? I think we’ll all be watching to see what happens!

      Also, yay for you for understanding the video! Your French is really improving!


  3. 5 Lindsey March 22, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I believe the same thing happened with an abandoned apartment in Place des Vosges which has been vacant for a few decades and the people taking shelter there were forced to leave. I say, if nothing is being done with the place, anyone should have the right to stay! As you say, this city is expensive enough!


    • 6 paris (im)perfect March 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Indeed. If nothing is being done with the place, why shouldn’t they use it?


      • 7 Miles April 7, 2011 at 2:58 am

        because they dont own it? How would you like someone to move into your house when you were away on holiday…?

        These are people who give very little to society – financially and socially. This idea that squatters are great people is a massive myth.

        I like the idea that if i buy something with the money I earned, I have the right to do whatever I want with it, regardless of the feckless minority who spend their lives looking for a place to “crash”



  4. 8 paris (im)perfect April 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Hi Miles. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

    I don’t actually think someone moving into my house while I’m on vacation is equivalent to someone moving into a warehouse that’s been abandoned for years. As I understand it, this group has been petitioning for years (legally) to be able to convert this space. Also, they didn’t move into this space. They occupied it for one day as a form of protest, which thankfully, in a free society, people are still able to do.

    I don’t think I said that squatters give to society financially. I don’t think I even said that they contribute socially. But a lot of artists do live in squats because they can’t afford otherwise and I actually do think art is an important social contribution.

    Sometimes the city of Paris even agrees (the city is often the owner of the property in these cases). 59 Rue de Rivoli is smack dab in the middle of Paris and was an artist squat for years. The city agreed this was a worthy contribution and worked out a deal with the artists to stay. It is now called the “Aftersquat.”

    Like I said, it’s obviously a debatable point. But Paris does have a major housing problem, and I think there should at least be an effort made toward providing affordable housing options – different from places to simply “crash”.

    Thanks for dropping by.


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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