Saturday, 17 November 2012

Photoblog: the anti-gay marriage demo in Lyon

Anti-gay marriage demonstrations were held in several major French cities today, including Lyon. Police sources estimate that about 118,000 protestors took to the streets nationwide, including 22,000 in Lyon.

Lyon's demo march was scheduled to begin at 3pm and as the marchers converged on their initial meeting point numerous police units positioned themselves at a discreet distance. The second photo is of anti-riot police and the third is a group of guys who are not to be messed with. They are the BAC, the Anti Criminality Brigade, and they are not known for handing out sweets to children. They don't like having their picture taken either, and some of them turn away...

Shortly before the demo set off however, a small group of about 150 pro-gay marriage counter-demonstrators suddenly appeared out of side streets and gathered together 30 yards from the main demo. The riot police move nearer.

As they did so a group of uninvited extreme-right wing demonstrators appeared as if from nowhere and the mood suddenly turned ugly, with both sides spoiling for a fight. Official demo organisers could be seen imploring them to go away.

Both sets of demonstrators were quickly and forcefully escorted and dispersed under riot police control in different directions and the march organisers set off the procession. Not everyone had to walk though.

Their destination was the square in front of the City Hall. Here they are as the head of the cortege arrives and the square begins to fill with people. The police ordered the march to continue on out of the square to prevent immobile bottlenecks of impatient demonstators building up behind them.

The demonstrators finally returned to where they had set off from as darkness fell.

Dancers on a sound-system truck blast out disco music and hold up a large doll to represent a baby.

Their bon enfant mood would prove to be short-lived however. A young woman looks confused as police units suddenly rush past her and continue on down the street.

The demo had been interrupted by a series of loud bangs and bright flares on top of a nearby Tourist Office building. Riot squad vans raced around. The extreme-right demonstrators were back.

The extreme-right demonstrators finally descended from the roof and were just being congratulated by their followers when the riot police arrived and kettled them. I asked one of the police squad what they intended to do with them and he answered "these guys are going to remain kettled here until they get cold and hungry and we'll most likely let them go at about 11pm."

(This blog is a factual account of what I saw but anyone wishing to read my views on this issue may do so here.)

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