It’s a long time since I’ve been on a demonstration, but when I saw this march in Lille, marking a national strike for public sector pay and conditions, my first impulse was to jump up and join in.
The impulse that won out though, was the one that allowed to me stay in my seat, watch the action and the reaction of the public, and document it with photographs.
I was amazed at the sheer strength of numbers. The march went on for almost half an hour – people kept on coming and coming. There were teachers, students, electricity and gas workers, transport workers. There were people of all ages, not just idealist youths who haven’t yet learned that changing the world is not as easy as it seems at 17. There were plenty of banners, there were cars sounding their horns, fireworks, and of course, someone with a megaphone shouting slogans.
In the café around me, there were a few grumbles. But they were from the other tourists. The Lillois weren’t all on their side, some looked away, others carried on their conversation, seemingly oblivious, but some sat in silence, watching. There were even a few cheers.
I snapped away, reflecting on the fact that, whether you think it’s right or wrong, these people were acting on principle, they’d taken the trouble to turn up and march, to show the world that they weren’t idling around, they were there because of a cause they believed in. And I think you can see it on their faces.