Sorry about last week’s Pariscope walk. That was a bit of a bust because it rained all weekend and Leo was sick with a cold. So we wound up staying at home, playing with the cats, and eating scrambled eggs. It wouldn’t have been very interesting to broadcast that live.
But today, for the first time, we’re going to use this Periscope thingamajigger to do real journalism. Because today is May Day — the International Day of Laborers and the Working Classes promoted by the labor movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists, as well as an ancient European spring holiday — celebrated without irony and with a large cohort of riot police everywhere in the world but America, where we will never be so over the Cold War that we can use the phrase “International Workers Day” with a straight face. The weather report says it will be sunny and fine, so this should be a colorful day indeed for journalists such as ourselves.
May Day’s an extremely significant holiday in France. As important as Thanksgiving in the US. And almost everywhere in the world, May Day means journalists can sell stuff. What kind of stuff? No one knows, but even no news is worth a few bucks: “May Day was celebrated peacefully in Paris” is considered news. (That’s probably the only news we’ll get out of the day, but it’s still news. Guarantee you it will not be celebrated peacefully somewhere else. Probably Istanbul. I remember one year when the May Day celebrations there were, to everyone’s astonishment, totally peaceful — and that was news.)
Alas, May Day is May Night for most of you. All times below are Paris times. (Here’s a handy time-zone converter.) But if you’re afflicted with insomnia, or working the night shift — tune in! And if not, you can still watch the broadcasts later, when you wake up. But you won’t be able to ask questions or interact with me, which is a shame, because that’s my favorite part of this.
By the way, if you missed my earlier posts about this: Periscope is an app that lets me livestream what I’m seeing and interact with viewers in real time. Here’s the info page, and here’s where you follow my broadcasts.
So here are some of the things we might see today:
First, May 1 has been a day for celebrating old French customs since King Charles IX received a gift of flowers on May 1 in 1561. So you’ll see people buying muguets to give to their loved ones. If you do that, it brings good luck. Families with children sometimes even get up early in the morning and go into the woods to pick them.
Second, although I doubt we’ll be able to get near it because of the crowds, there’s a wreath-laying ceremony at noon at the Arc de Triomphe, and then there will be a parade on the Champs Elysee.
Third, all the churches and the Panthéon will be open. Sunday Mass starts at 11:00 a.m. at most of them. But think I can only do about an hour of broadcasting in total before the battery runs out, so I’m not sure we’ll have time for the detour. It all depends what you want to see.
Fourth, May Day in Paris is traditionally a day for massive union demonstrations and parades. Each political party sponsors its own unions. We’ll see workers of the world uniting, socialists, communists, and lots of politicians trying to be out in front of them for the cameras. These should be particularly pugnacious this year, because the unions have been going absolutely berserk about the proposed new labor laws. You may even get a chance to see people in France singing The Internationale unironically.
At 3:00 pm, the left and the hard-left start their march at the Bastille. Recently, the Nuit Debout movement has been gaining strength. We can find them there, I reckon. If you’ve got any questions for Nuit Debout people but you won’t be awake then, leave them in the comments, I’ll ask for you.
At 11:00 a.m., the libertarians and the anarch0-syndicalists will begin their march for “a social revolution and libertarianism” and against the government’s austerity program. (What does it mean to be a libertarian in France, you ask? Hell if I know; that sure doesn’t sound like something any libertarian we know would do, does it? But they’ll all be there today, so let’s just askthem.) They start at 11:00 am at the Place des Fêtes, and head toward the Bastille.
Only problem is that there are a few scheduling conflicts. See below.
Fifth, May Day is also counter-rally and counter-parade day for the National Front. This year, there will be two competing National Front events to commemorate the day: a traditional rally, led by the elder Le Pen, and a “Great Patriotic Banquet” led by his enemy and mortal rival — his daughter Marine. Usually, the far-right parade goes from Opéra to the statue of Jeanne d’Arc near the Place de la Concorde. But this year, things will be a little different. France24 explains:
France’s far-right National Front party has shifted its annual May 1 gathering from its usual spot at a statue of Joan of Arc in central Paris to another location, citing a terrorist threat.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the firebrand founder of the National Front (FN), has organised his own rally at the traditional spot in defiance of his daughter Marine’s decision to host the event elsewhere in Paris.
If we go, and actually, I’d really like to see this — I’ve never seen the Old Boy speak — we’ll be going to the traditional one (at 11:00 am local time), because Marine’s banquet is invitation-only.
The annual FN gathering has taken place every year since 1988 at the gilded bronze statue of French heroine Joan of Arc (who was burned at the stake for heresy by the English in 1431) on Rue de Rivoli next to the Louvre Museum.
But this year, prompted by jihadist threats to the “idolatrous” annual gathering of anti-European and anti-immigration FN supporters, the venue has been shifted to another statue of Joan of Arc, this time at Saint Augustin, less than two kilometers away.
The one at Saint Augustin is just a wreath-laying. No speechifying, they’re saving that for the banquet. But the real reason they moved the rally isn’t because ISIS threatened it. It’s because last year, Marine (the daughter) totally lost control of it. She’d just placed a spray of lilies and roses at the foot of Joan of Arc’s gilded statue when a bunch of nekkid Femen chicks burst onto the scene. And if that wasn’t mood-ruining enough, out of nowhere her embarrassing father ambushed her. The Old Boy was supposed to be safely in the hospital, recovering from heart surgery, but he materialized exuberantly, clambered up on the stage, ruddy and demented, and began shaking his fists in defiance. Marine just couldn’t catch a break.
So this year, she’s having an invitation-only Great Patriotic Banquet and leaving Pops to be blown up by ISIS:
The nature of Sunday’s official rally has also changed. The Rivoli gathering traditionally sees FN supporters marching to nearby Opéra after speeches by party leaders.
This year, however, the event at Saint Augustin will be a stationary “patriotic banquet” in the shadow of St Joan (she was canonized in 1920).
“Daesh [Islamic State group] has directly threatened the FN,” said party lawmaker Gilber Collard in reference to a recently-published article in a jihadist magazine that described the FN rally as a “prime target.” “We do not want to risk the safety of our militants.”
Daesh has threatened to blow up everyone in France, so really there’s nothing special about them threatening to blow up an FN rally. Everyone understands the real logic of this. No photos of Marine ahead of the 2017 elections with a bunch of nekkid ladies and her crazy Pops, period.
But it wasn’t just safety issues that caused the change in venue. In 2015, Jean-Marie le Pen was removed from the list of speakers at the May 1 event, but appeared on stage anyway in chaotic scenes that many saw as a purposeful attempt to undermine his daughter’s legitimacy.
“I think that was a malicious act, I think it was an act of contempt towards me,” Marine Le Pen, who took over the party leadership in 2011, told French radio after the event.
No kidding, Marine. (This family is straight out of King Lear.)
“I get the feeling that he can’t stand that the National Front continues to exist when he no longer heads it,” she said.
It’s true, he can’t. It drives him nuts. He’ll do everything in his power to sabotage her.
Indeed, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted for making anti-Semitic comments, inciting racial hatred and for Holocaust denial, has become a growing problem for the FN as it tries to move its public image away from the overt racism and anti-Semitism of its beginnings.
Jean-Marie Le Pen has not been invited to the “patriotic banquet.” He told Metronews he wouldn’t deign to go to what will be a tightly-controlled and watered-down rally, even if he was invited.
Instead, he has prepared a 40-minute speech that he will deliver to die-hard supporters at the Joan of Arc statue on Rue de Rivoli.
According to Metronews, Le Pen senior said, “I call all the people who are not afraid of Daech to meet before the statue of Joan of Arc on May 1, instead of the Pyramids, where I will address the yuuuuuge crowd of patriots who will, I am sure, respond to my appeal.” (Read: If you go to my daughter’s rally, you’re a complete wuss.) “Il n’y aura pas de place pour les pleutres et pour les lâches,” he said. “There will be no room for spineless people and cowards.”
“I want to maintain this FN tradition started 28 years ago,” he said, referring to his daughter as “Madame Le Pen” who had “broken the tradition of marching from the statue of Joan of Arc, supposedly because of a Daesh threat.”
“I haven’t been invited [to the patriotic banquet] and I wouldn’t want to go,” he said.
“Despite this, what I desire, and what will be the subject of my speech on Sunday, is for the FN to unite ahead of the [presidential and legislative] elections of 2017,” added the man whose bellicose words and actions have done more to divide the party he founded than any other.
Recently, Marine has been posing in lots of photos with her cats to soften her image. These take on a somewhat different meaning when you know that last year, one of her father’s dogs devoured one of her cats. Yes, that is correct: Her father’s dog ate her favorite cat.
Anyway, Marine has threatened to excommunicate any FN supporter who goes to her father’s rally. She’s reportedly going to have spies in the crowd to see whether any of her faithful followers are betraying her. So let’s try not to miss that: Skinheads, spies, and the Old Boy whipping up the Party die-hards; that should give us a really good feeling for the old Front. Tune in at 10:00 a.m. Paris time. I’ve never seen the Old Boy live, so I’m looking forward to that.
By the way, the Old Boy’s a big Trump fan. He calls him “Don Trump.” I don’t know if his English is good enough for him to realize that this has a second meaning.
Don’t be alarmed if the broadcast starts and stops suddenly. It’s hard to concentrate on where you’re walking and what you’re filming at the same time, so if the crowds require me to pay some attention to what’s going on around me, I’ll just stop filming. (May Day is notorious for pickpocketing. This is also why I’ll be mean to the adorable little urchins who try to give me flowers. I don’t hate adorable little urchins with flowers. But I do hate their parents, who put them up to distracting people so they can pick their pockets.)