16 October 2009

My first French Strike!

Although my school week had been going significantly better, I was nevertheless delighted to receive an email last night which said all schools in Metz would be closed today (Friday) due to a massive strike by French farmers.  How very French indeed! And, I might add, how courteous of them to schedule it in advance!

Today, throughout France, over 70,000 farmers participated in the demonstrations protesting the plummeting price of their produce, demanding that Sarkozy keep his promises to offset their losses. Of the 7,000 tractors that formed convoys to disrupt traffic throughout France, nearly 2,000 were in Metz alone.  Public transportation in the downtown was crippled as the parade of tractors and protesters snaked their way through Metz.  

I joined fellow English assistants Kappes and Cole for a bit of 'tractor spotting' which involved mounting a hill in the park to observe the action below. From what we could see, the protest remained peaceful. Colorful banners denouncing French President Nicolas Sarkozy, effigies hanging from gallows, and even a woman dressed as a cow joined the masses who gathered. From our perch on the hilltop, a line of tractors extended as far as the eye could see.  These tractors came from all over Lorraine, which means many traveled quite a respectable distance to come to Metz.  Only in France are striking union workers provided a free lunch break!  At the beginning of their route, a huge station was distributing free baguette sandwiches, beer, water, and Orangina to the protesters.  Over loud speakers, protest leaders announced the arrival of each group of tractors from neighboring towns.  News crews also arrived on the scene to document the protest.  

I found the whole situation rather fascinating, as I have NEVER witnessed a strike on this scale at home in the States.  I had many errands to run throughout the day, and at various points in town I noticed scores of police clothed in riot gear, waiting behind shields in case the demonstration took a turn for the worst.  Thankfully, I didn't witness or hear about any violence, so I assume that all went well!  I continue to feel so fortunate to live in Metz, where all the action is... 

Mom, Dad, I'm really not trying to add more gray hairs to your heads! I'm safe, not to worry!

Tractor convoy lining up

Police awaiting the protest on a bridge over the Moselle River

News crew

A gruesome effigy says "Merci l'Europe!"

Sandwich and beer distribution in the gathering place for protestors

More tractors


  1. Hi Jamie,

    it doesn't say: "Agriculture at one price" but "The agriculture got a price to pay."

    Welcome, Robin


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