- Posted October 26, 2010 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Pension strikes in France
Uneasy calm settles on France; future peace uncertain
- nsaidi, CNN iReport producer
Lyon, France -- It is a typical day in the city of Lyon. Bundled up children walk the streets hand in hand with parents. People sit out in open air cafes, drinking and enjoying each other's company. Young students are busy seeking out friends. For a first-time tourist to the city, everything is as one would expect.
Despite the seemly unremarkable calm, things were quite different in Lyon only a few days earlier. Last week, as momentum on the pension reform built, France was marked with severe protests.
In cities like Lyon, protests turned violent as students and disenfranchised youth took to the streets to battle with riot police dressed for war. Shops were destroyed; cars were burned; people were hurt. (see related article: Students riot over retirement age).
As the city recovers from some of the worst riots the country has ever seen, people are anxiously awaiting the next weeks, unsure whether peace has truly returned to France.
If the pension riots have showed us anything, it is that there is more wrong in France than simply the retirement age. For many, the pension protests were simply a venue to express their own disagreement or frustration towards current French policy. For the disenfranchised youth from the outskirts of the cities, it was another opportunity to express their anger at being marginalized and the target of racism. Still for others, it was simply an opportunity to cause trouble.
Enter Elrik Lepercq (18), Adrien Muneret (21) and Cyril Lugbull (20). All students here in France, they actively partook in the protests. The three are sporting a rainbow flag with the word "PEACE" in bold across it. Elrick shows a welt from flashball fired at him by the police, a war medal from the day before.
When asked what their response was to everything that was happening, the three pour out their hearts. They go on to say that the protests are the result of the general level of unhappiness in France.
Elrik, alluding to many of the young Arab protesters, makes a strong point that much of the riots are about racism. "The government is creating a second France and this second France is not happy to be treated as second" he says.
His point is strong. As they are telling their story they are surrounded by police in riot gear loading into a bus a large crowd of fascists chanting racist slogans. It is not a very peaceful or pleasant scene.
Despite their passion and obvious anger at the government, they are adamant about one point: "I have one thing to stay: don't think it is war in France. It isn't.", says Cyril, shaking his finger to emphasize his point.
As the pension reform enters into its final stages, France will see if Cyril is correct. As for now though people are cautious. They know that nothing was solved with the protests, that those who are angry are still angry.
For the protesters and all those angry at the government, the pension riots were only the first battle in what could be a much longer conflict.
The Lyonnaise know this. And despite the relative calm in the city, people still become tense at the sound of glass breaking or people shouting, reflexes of a population that was just in battle.