Tag Archives: europe

24h sans nous: Protest in Paris shows impact of immigrants

Hundreds gathered at the Hotel de Ville in Paris today for “24h Sans Nous,” a protest in honor of the city’s growing immigrant population. Organizers of “Association La Journée sans immigrés” called for immigrants to avoid working or consuming for 24 hours on March 1st, in an attempt to show governments that France’s economy would plummet without their presence.

During the peaceful protest, a demonstration by a group of the city’s “sans-papiers” (illegal immigrant) population joined the crowd, beating djembes and shouting for  regularization of their legal status. Yellow ribbons, stickers and t-shirts were on sale for supporters.

Protesters stand behind a sign reading, "We are all immigrants"

A protester shows the plethora of documents needed in order to prove one's French citizenship

The political climate in France has turned sour on the issue of immigration in recent months after the government launched a controversial “national identity” campaign that many felt stigmatized immigrants or children of immigrants. “Association La Journee Sans Immigres” is using today’s protest as a platform to speak openly about France’s immigration policies and regulations. Since July 2006, the country’s borders have become significantly more closed, particularly to unskilled workers.

Europe, as a whole, is struggling with integrating the growing number of foreigners arriving and looking for residency or work. Greece, Italy and Spain have seen some of the continent’s largest growth in the past year and numbers are only expected to rise in coming years.

Demonstrations similar to the one in Paris were expected in other parts of France and across Europe today.

A protester holds a sign reading "Illegal immigrants are angry, the racist laws, it's shameful"

A group of sans-papiers line up in protest

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Give me liberty or give me… ?

What does it take to get a girl excited these days? I’m feeling so seriously jaded.

Call me ungrateful, a cynic, a snob. Maybe I am. But the more I see of the world, the more it looks the same. 

Is it just me, or does each Mediterranean palm tree seem to sway in the same direction? And I’m sure that those public squat toilets are just as gag-inducing whether it’s France, India or Korea (although China probably wins as the most disgusting). Restaurant servers are rude in Paris just as they are in New York (maybe it’s a big city thing) and dogs are everywhere – whether on a leash or running wild towards your inviting, rabies shot-free leg – and they want you.

Woe is me, right? I shouldn’t complain. At the age of 29, I have effectively seen the world. North America, Europe, Asia – I have not only travelled these lands but lived there too, watching how people eat, think and smell the world. I have seen millions of feet in a rainbow of colours walk this earth – and what a widely varied earth it is, indeed. I hope to see more soon, but my current bank balance won’t allow it (and am I the only almost thirty-something without a palpable savings?).

The problem is, with each new voyage, with each new wander across spans of spaces more different than I can describe in three simple lines, I notice how incredibly unexcited I become. A snake charmer on the street dressed in glittering gold bangles? Yea, whatever. Amber speckled sand dunes atop grassy hills? That’s nice. Asian babies in buttless diapers, which I am made to hold for that “lucky photo?” Really, I am over it.

It’s not that I am sick of travelling. Oh no. Just a little bored with the world, that’s all. I want something I can really jump up and down for – the heart-racing, eye-popping, incredulous staring sort of stuff. And even as I write this, I wonder, at what point will I be satisfied? When my legs are dangling halfway over the cliff with my fingers about to give way on the boulder I am gripping?

The worst side effect of this wanderlust disease is my inability to sit still. And Minneapolis has not fallen exempt from this affliction either. No longer am I comfortable sitting at home over a coffee with my parents. Seeing the world has made it that much harder to look out at the glimmering murmur of Lake Calhoun’s lapping water or enjoy a gin and tonic at The Leaning Tower of Pizza. Even that spot-on impression of a dinosaur by my little brother hasn’t been enough to keep me here. 

Always on the move, am I. My constant fidgeting away from the Twin Cities has become the butt of all jokes by my friends, their friends and my relatives. I seem to have come down with a bad case of the unconventional, but surprisingly debilitating, inverse form of inertia – once in motion, always in motion. It’s liveable, but just. And I haven’t found a cure yet.

So, here I am in France. The sunsets of Minneapolis are seven hours behind me, those Obama lawn signs like a distant dream. Here I sit, waiting. Waiting for something to excite me so I can make my decision of… will I stay or will I go now? And if I go, to where? And now, at my age, I must ask, who will come with me? 

Give me excitement or give me death! Who was it that said something similar? Oh yes, Patrick Henry. Of course, he was talking about liberty. But aren’t the two somewhat similar? Personal liberty and freedom from slavery, from war; freedom from the war within ourselves. Freedom to love and live… and exist how and where we choose. Freedom to be excited about our surroundings at every minute, and to appreciate the sounds, smells and tastes of everyone and everything.

Maybe it’s a stretch, but if I hadn’t known better, I’d say Patrick Henry was a die-hard traveller. The question is, would he have the cure?