Trocadero is also site of the Palais de Chaillot where in December 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed by the United Nations.
This confluence of the scenic and the symbolic serves as a compelling assembly point for many gatherings.
On Saturday I learned at the last minute about a peaceful protest called Paris to Ferguson organized to show solidarity with those speaking out against police brutality. I hesitated for just a second – my thoughts, my heart, have been tuned to the events happening in the United States. Does it matter to hold signs and raise voices here in the City of Light?
I quickly brushed the doubt away. I had half an hour between learning of the demonstration and its scheduled start to make my way to the other side of Paris to join. I needed an outlet as much as the message needs to be heard.
On Wednesday evening I had gone to my first ever meditation class. The calm I found shattered when I returned home and read the news of another non-indictment, this time in New York. Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer. We saw the whole thing on camera. The coroner ruled his death a homicide. Still, no accountability.
The protest was bilingual, as both American and French speakers took to the mic. Poems were read, a moment of silence observed, slogans chanted. I had trouble getting the words out for much of it due to emotion. “We can’t breathe.”
Toward the end, we lay down on Trocadero’s marble esplanade. The cold seeped into me, but I didn’t move. I thought about Eric Garner’s last breaths on the ground. I thought about his children and his wife. I thought about how many people of color have lost their loved ones this way, the systematic injustice, and the counter arguments that try to derail that reality.
I looked up at the open blue sky, then craned my neck back a little and saw the French flag flying. Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Nowhere do human beings live up to our most lauded ideals. But what choice do we have but to keep trying? To demand recognition that life matters?
Not knowing what to do from here, I found a small answer on Saturday on the esplanade of human rights in Paris. Standing with others. Using my voice. Showing that the world is watching.
Another demonstration will be held this Friday, December 12, in front of the American Embassy in Paris. More info on the Paris is Watching event page.