#1066. The Morning After at Bastille Sunday 29 November

By Dallas Thomas | Opinion

Dec 01

Documentary photography is not something I do very often or enjoy. I’m aware that it’s important to record events, however, do we need to see the evidence of people’s actions, particularly when it is so destructive. 

Yesterday there was a legitimate and important manifestation (protest march) from Republic to Bastille (where we live) about a new law, that police can’t be filmed and also about a black music producer that was beaten up in his studio. 

In the morning while out getting our breakfast baguette, I saw the police preparing for the manifestation erecting large barriers to protect Place de Bastille. 

Saturday was the first day of relaxation of the lockdown rules imposed in late October, businesses were preparing to be open and trading. 

The day was cool with bright sunshine and Anne & I looked forward to extra movement which allowed us to explore other parts of Paris that we hadn’t yet been able to go to on since we arrived back at our second home. Paris for us often feels even more the place we should be than our beloved Sydney.

Around 4pm we could see and smell the smoke bellowing over the rooftops in the direction of Boulevard Beaumarchais which is the direct link to Place de la République the meeting point for today’s manifestation. The smell of rubber was in the air. Later we heard loud bangs for over an hour which was the fireworks of the protesters and as we later learnt was the police using teargas and rubber bullets to disperse/control the crowd.

We live close-by less than 2 minutes walk to Place de la Bastille. There were crowds of people that could be seen and heard leaving the area. They all appeared to be everyday people like you and I. We could also hear for quite some time into the evening, waves of roars of excitement from a crowd. Sunday morning we discovered just what had happened.

Sunday mid morning we walked part way up Boulevard Beaumarchais, what struck us first was the destruction of a protective wall around the July Column which is being refurbished. 

The majority of the 60,000 people marching were as usual, there as they should be protesting for their rights as citizens of France. However, as seems to be happening more and more anarchists are involved. Graffiti was everywhere, some businesses, apartment buildings, doors, banks (of course).

What struck me was what appeared in general to be targeted damage to public property, like bus stops, banks and large companies. Small private businesses on a whole seemed to be spared from this rampage fo smashed glass and general destruction.

Please understand I’m not condemning the protest in anyway shape or form what is very disappointing is the damage that was done and the cost to society in general. As of now, people can’t sit in a bus stop and be protected from the weather, the time to the next bus approaching is also broken. They can’t use ATM’s. Simple everyday activities.

On the photographer side images where captured with Nikon Z7 and Voigtländer 40mm f/1.2 Nokton with minimal post processing in LR.


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  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Oh, Dallas, this breaks my heart! The Marais & Bastille area have always been where I’ve chosen to stay while in Paris. This senseless destruction is very reminiscent of what’s been happening in the US over the past few months: peaceful demonstrations being interrupted by anarchists bent of doing horrifying damage to the area. I’ll never understand why this happens – it’s completely crazy and so very, very sad. Thank you for documenting the damage and telling the story; sometimes that what you have to do as a photographer.

  • Ian Varkevisser says:

    A sad state of affairs is developing world wide , well captured and informative – thank you

  • Claude Hurlbert says:

    Dallas, your photos are profound and your words are sensitive and insightful. We photographers know the importance of witnessing and recording—of documenting. Such work helps us to remember what, when and where we were, but not in a superficial way. Your work reminds us to record what we have lost, but most important, perhaps, to value what we still have and need to preserve (which can indeed require activism). Thank you for sharing this work, and for such a thoughtful presentation. Claude

  • John W says:

    I am baffled, dismayed and disheartened with the propensity for senseless violence and destruction that lurks below the thin veneer we like to call “civilization”. After 100k+ years you would think we had learned the simple fact that cooperation is ALWAYS more productive than violence.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    The stupidity of a great deal of what you have captured is manifest, Dallas.

    “Destroy” is their mantra – but they have offered or suggested nothing to replace what they want to destroy.

    Anarchy is the absence of government – of rules of social conduct & interaction. It’s not destructive per se – but inevitably it draws out the destructive members of the community.

    Violence is like “argument” – childish and unproductive, once again.

    Frankly, anyone who is so opposed to the society within which they live, that they have to carry on like this, should quit that society and move to one that they consider more suitable. Best of luck finding one, though. But in the meantime, F*** OFF. By this conduct, they forfeit any rights they imagine they have, to participate in France.

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