Finally, the Gilets Jaunes made it to our neck of the woods and hence I was able to catch my first glimpses of the movement.
At first, it was from afar. In fact, My intention was to avoid them but here they were, unmissable. Seen from the perspective of a medieval-street passer-by, the demonstration looked exactly as if it were on a TV set screen playing in the distance...
As I ventured closer, an executioner's axe cut out of cardboard caught my eye. After observing it being prepped and ready to go, I was able to get close enough for a body close-up. The volatility of the scene was tangible.
In the evening, the demonstration was winding down. As eager as ever to avoid the heart of the action, I nevertheless happened on Gilets Jaunes, again. This time, they were trying themselves to leave the place via the quieter streets parallel to Boulevard Saint Germain, where the bonfires were being lit. As one can see, they came well-equipped with protective goggles. Still, they did not look aggressive.
Shopkeepers decided it was time to roll down the iron curtains. Passers-by looked a bit edgy. A couple seemed to hold on to each other for comfort.
At a café usually bustling with business and patrons, the terrace was empty and the tables were stacked, looking disoriented. People looked decidedly tense, wondering if things might take a turn for the worse.
Again, you can sense the edginess on the faces of people here. Store doors were shut and in this case opened briefly to let through a woman who went out to talk with a colleague outside. "Happy Holidays" indeed.
It was the end of the demonstration. A lone Gilet Jaune looked not at a mound of ruins but at the recent past of the collective action, up the Boulevard. Prevented for X reasons from getting to the Assemblée Nationale to deliver their letter, they had deviated into Boulevard Saint Germain. Then the usual rioters arrived. Things were burned. Ashes were left. All of this did not make the collective message of the Gilets Jaunes any clearer. One could look at smoke, smell it - with additional notes of dried fish near Allard's, the only logical link. Those were not smoke signals however. Still awaiting clarification on their plan of action for the country, with a calendar and hierarchy of needs to serve the common good, as they see it - because not necessarily 100% of the French might agree.