With the likes of the above going on lately I turn to my Paris Correspondent Dennis Cooper
France has an image abroad that’s so romantic, and it’s an image which I, after living here for so long, I still mostly believe in, but, you know, France is all over the place, and it doesn’t seem like the foreign press, or that in/for the US at least, is capable of giving a true and even-handed account of things going on here. As big as the protests were, society is not being shaken by them. People protest all the time. Add religious fervor and the adrenaline effect caused by irrational fear, and you end up with a lot of people on the fringes marching together at the same time. The protests are being treated overseas like they’re apocalyptic or something because large numbers of people marching in the streets is such a rarity in the US these days, but it’s not like that here.
At least 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris to protest a new law allowing gay marriage, a largely peaceful gathering that later turned violent as riot police battled hundreds of right-wingers.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said on Monday that police had made a total of 350 arrests, and that 36 people had been injured: 34 police officers, one AFP photojournalist and one protester.
In a statement, Valls blamed the “extreme right” for the violence.
“These incidents were provoked by several hundred individuals, most from the extreme right and the (nationalist) Bloc Identitaire, who violently attacked police,” he added.
The rally came as the jury at the Cannes film festival in southern France on Sunday awarded its Palme d’Or top prize to the sexually graphic lesbian love story “Blue is the Warmest Colour” by French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche.
The main demonstration on Sunday saw three separate processions converging on the Invalides esplanade, filling the huge promenade with pink and blue – the colours adopted by the anti-gay marriage movement.
Police said 150,000 people turned out to protest, a figure immediately contested by organizers who said one million opponents of the law had shown up.
Some of the far-right activists briefly unfurled a banner at the ruling Socialist party’s headquarters urging President Francois Hollande to resign.
As the protesters dispersed, after a largely peaceful march, police said up to 500 people began attacking them by throwing metal barriers, smoke flares and beer bottles.
The youths shouted slogans against the government such as “Socialist dictatorship” and also threw objects at journalists covering the event.
Late on Saturday, police had detained 50 people involved in an anti-gay marriage protest on the busy Champs-Elysées avenue.
Fears of unrest at Sunday’s protest had been fueled by violence that erupted earlier this month during celebrations marking football club Paris Saint-Germain’s league victory, which saw tourists attacked and shop and car windows smashed.
Some 4,500 security forces were mobilized for Sunday’s demonstration that was billed as a last-ditch show of force by opponents of the bill allowing same-sex marriage and adoption, which was voted into law on May 18th following months of bitter protests.
But those in the protest ignored the recent tensions, bringing their children along as others had in previous demonstrations.
“We keep hearing about a far-right movement, I can see only families here,” said one man called Raoul, who came from the city of Dijon.
Onlookers were instead treated to creative forms of protest. One man dressed in black held a scythe and wore a mask of Hollande as he stood behind a coffin containing a mannequin dressed as Marianne, the emblem of France.
“Hollande, your mother isn’t called Robert”, shouted some of the demonstrators in a slogan that gained in popularity as the afternoon progressed.
Hey, maybe her name is Roberte
Supporters and opponents of the bill began protesting last autumn when it was adopted by the cabinet, and continued to do so at regular intervals throughout the country during the legislative process.
The definitive vote in the French parliament came on April 23rd when the law was passed, legalizing both homosexual marriages and adoptions by gay couples.
One of Hollande’s campaign pledges, it has proved hugely divisive in a country that is officially secular but predominantly Catholic.
France is the 14th country to legalize same-sex marriage, an issue that has also divided opinion in many other nations.
In Brazil, tens of thousands of evangelical Christians marched in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday protesting a recent legal ruling allowing gay marriage.
And in Poland, some 10,000 protesters marched Sunday in solidarity with opponents of the French law, to defend the traditional family structure.
But according to a survey published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche, nearly three-quarters of French people are tired of the anti-bill protests and think they should stop.
Another potential flashpoint will be in the southern town of Montpellier on Wednesday when the country’s first gay wedding is due to take place.
That should be quite a festive occasion.
And now to sing us out one of my favorite gay Frenchmen — and I expect yours too.