Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero

Paris to Ferguson rallyAs photographers, tourists and anyone else wanting to see the Iron Lady in all her glory know, Trocadero offers Paris’ best viewing spot of the Eiffel Tower.

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.

The World is Watching Paris to Ferguson Protest

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.

We Can't Breathe Paris to FergusonThe 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.

paris to ferguson

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.

10 Responses to “Paris to Ferguson Protest at Trocadero”

  1. 1 lupinssupins December 9, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Je ne peux pas respirer. I live in St. Louis, or rather in St. Louis County, in University City, an inner ring suburb of St. Louis City. I also taught school in U. City, but my last teaching job was in North St. Louis County, in a district whose schools closed for a week in response to the August protests and again after the grand jury decision was announced. The area of the majority of the protests and all of the later arson is very familiar to me. As a young child, just starting school, I lived for 5 years in a tiny North County suburb adjacent to Ferguson, called Dellwood, where my parents bought our first house– a ticky-tack little ranch house, just off Chambers Rd. It’s so close, in fact, that our back yard abutted property ON West Florissant, near Chambers Rd, the very hub of the main protests — we lived less than a block from there! The street where Mike Brown’s body was left in the August sun for 4 and a half hours was on my school bus route from kindergarten to 4th grade.

    So for almost 2 weeks in August and another, very shocking week in late November, I was watching my old neighborhood every night, sometimes all night, on extended coverage. The shopping center where we hung out every Saturday, as soon as we got our little allowance. The places we got ice cream, bought our Schwinn bikes, got our haircuts, bought our shoes, where our mom bought groceries– the structures, that is. Those businesses had come and gone and changed hands many times over the decades. It was heartbreaking to see how people who live and shop where we lived and shopped being treated like criminals or even enemy invaders. It was frightening to see the looting, but reassuring to see that the actual demonstrators were linking arms and lining up to block the looters’ path through the broken glass. And reaffirming that virtually none of those arrested for vandalism and looting were FROM Ferguson. Some were from hundreds of miles away!

    The week of that very ironic Thanksgiving was even more heartrending, seeing the fires across our old neighborhood– More than half of the businesses that burned were in Dellwood. Where were the firefighters? We were told that firefighters will not go in nor be sent in, where shots are being fired. Fair enough. A few years ago, in a different suburb, next door to my U. City, a 22 year old rookie firefighter, barely an adult, was shot dead in a hail of bullets directed against him and his firefighter brothers as they responded to a fire that a deranged (white) man had set in order to lure in firefighters, against he had some mysterious and paranoid grudge. But back to Ferguson– and Dellwood– Where were the National Guard whom our governor had made a preemptive point of calling in? We learned just last week that MOST of them were sitting on folding chairs in a staging area miles from Ferguson, waiting to be assigned! The rest were defending the County Seat of Clayton, site of the courthouse where the grand jury had met and where prosecutor Bob McCulloch had made his belated and wordy announcement [buried in an hour-long description of the process and his defense of it], oddly enough, about 4 and a half hours after sundown. And… where the property values of the businesses and the household incomes are hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than those in Ferguson and Dellwood. Even discounting my ‘hint’ at classicsm on their part, that latter decision I can understand, because it was the source of the night’s rage.

    However, in that armed camp, the huge crowd awaiting the announcement turned out to be utterly peaceful and rapidly dispersed to other demonstration areas. Areas that did NOT have the benefit of National Guardsmen and women to protect property. After the … distribution issues, with complete facts and figures, were reported by an intrepid local investigative reporter, Gov. Jay Nixon ducked that reporter’s questions for days, then finally came up with his excuse– “I didn’t want there to be another Kent State” and that after all, the Guardsmen might be aggravated at being deployed away from their families during Thanksgiving week! Way to trust your own men, Governor. The governor of Ohio that awful day was a hardline Republican who had ordered a hard line. And our Jeremiah Nixon thought the only way to prevent another massacre was to let the main business district of 2 towns burn down? I can’t breathe.

    Then came the even more inexplicable verdict from Staten Island. It’s on TAPE! “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe… ” 11 times.

    Je ne peux pas respirer.

    Thank you for going to the manif in Paris, Sion. The whole world is watching.

    Mary Kissane
    University City, MO


  2. 3 lupinssupins December 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    I should have added that again, just as the August looters were NOT the demonstrators and vice versa, the November arsonists were NOT the demonstrators and vice versa. Again, demonstrators had done what they could to protect their local businesses. In a couple of very poignant cases, they succeeded in arguing arsonists away.


    • 4 paris (im)perfect December 10, 2014 at 7:54 pm

      It’s a good point: the media so often focuses on these sensationalist images and paints protesters with a broad stroke when in reality the majority are peaceful. (And it’s no coincidence the news was released in the evening – certain people *wanted* such volatile reactions to broadcast widely). I do think it’s important to remember that human life trumps property, though. Even the paragon of peace and nonviolence, Martin Luther King, Jr. said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Vandalism is certainly not an effective way to channel anger. But the anger is understandable. After years of suffering oppression and intolerable conditions, a huge miscarriage of justice like this one can ignite people into these futile actions. But yes, let’s remember the vast majority of people taking to the streets are not vandalizing. People want to protect their communities. The most crucial takeaway is that people of color are unfairly targeted and are dying with no consequences to those who kill them. It has to stop.


  3. 5 Ana December 9, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Thank you for your eloquent words and actions, Sion. They matter.


  4. 7 bcinfrance December 9, 2014 at 10:25 pm

    Very moving. I am amazed to learn that these protests have made it to Paris. It makes me wish I were there…


    • 8 paris (im)perfect December 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      Yes, it was incredible to see it’s made its way here, too – that’s why I didn’t even know it was happening until right before! And take heart: you can respond in your own way wherever you are. Thank you for reading.


  5. 9 Elena Azzoni December 9, 2014 at 11:00 pm

    This is so beautiful, thank you for writing it.

    I miss you!! Please let me know next time you’re in ny!!

    Bisous xxoo



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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.

Share the love!

Bookmark and Share

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,996 other followers

Follow siondayson on Twitter

easyJet Holidays Paris City Break
Expat Blog website
Expat Women website
Protected by Copyscape Plagiarism Checker
Worldette – Ignite your travel life, make a difference, have fun!
© 2010-18 Copyright Sion Dayson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

%d bloggers like this: