Greetings from the riot zone

21 October 2010

Hello from Lyon! We’re all well, but the riots are still going on all around the town centre. I went down there on Tuesday night for an appointment and the atmosphere was not very nice. When I arrived around half past six in the evening, Place Bellecour was still teaming with police in riot gear, police helicopters were circling the air round the town centre, the whole place was littered with waste and there were loads of people — mostly riff raff– with nasty dogs and cans of lager hanging around. Not nice. None of the restaurants or shops were open. A friend who lives there emailed me to say that she can’t let her children out, cars have been set on fire in front of their house and she finds the whole experience very scary. This lovely family only arrived in Lyon in September, and I really hope this doesn’t spoil their experience. But it is frightening, when your in the midst of it. Yesterday, I had picked up a cousin of Rolf’s from the train station and we were cycling home along the Rhone, just so she could get an impression of our beautiful town. Unlucky for us, the rioting crowds had just at that time decided to move from Place Bellecour towards La Guillotiere. This meant that we had to try and cut through the constant stream of police cars and hooligans. Rolf’s cousin really enjoyed it, she got so excited and was very keen to join the crowds. (Having said that, she spent a long time on the Balcans during the war there, so she is used to this kind of action). I was not too keen to go, in my experience, you get so easily drawn into the mass of people and just swept away by the crowds. So we went home instead. It didn’t really bother me that she said I was too scared to go, I am, really, these crowds develop such a dynamic of their own, it’s just not the kind of energy I want to be part of. Anyway, there is more protest going on today, the helicopters and police cars have been out since the early morning. I spoke to Iris on the phone about lunchtime and she assured me that she could see no more smoke rising above Lyon, so I guess all the fires had been put out by noon. It is very strange to go into Lyon at the moment, which is normally so friendly and lovely. Having lived in London probably leaves its traces too, because in a tense situation like the present one, I am immediately on high alert in all busy public places. Like in the train station yesterday. It was absolutely packed with people and my first thought was just to get out as quickly as possible and to go home by bike rather than on the metro, because I fear that these places are ideal spots for, for example, bombings. We had too many bomb alerts and actual bombings during our time in London not to be worried. But we are fine for the moment, our quartier is calm and I hope that things will calm down over the weekend, so we can enjoy life to the full again.


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