A night with Nuit Debout, France's novel protest movement

Since March 31st, an increasing series of nocturnal sit-ins have taken over town and city centres around France. Called Nuit Debout, (roughly meaning ‘Standing Up Night’), they are gatherings of people of all ages who are dismayed by the political scene in France. They hold debates, spontaneous discussions, break out in song, swap books, eat together and hold occasional demonstrations. There is no official aim, and there are no official leaders, and no-one knows where it will all end. The movement began on the Place de la République in central Paris, in the aftermath of a demonstration against the government’s proposed labour law reform. Christophe Gueugneau and Michaël Hajdenberg joined the sit-in there this weekend.

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Demonstrators again took to the streets of Paris on Saturday to protest against the socialist government’s proposed changes to the country’s labour laws, which are denounced by trades and student unions as a regressive move that erodes employees’ rights and protection.

The anti-labour law demonstrations have been growing in numbers since last month, and it was after one such march on March 31st that a group of several hundred demonstrators set up an improvised camp at the Place de la République in central Paris. There they gathered together, under pounding rain, to debate and plant a flag of political protest and frustration. It was the launch of the Nuit Debout movement of nocturnal sit-ins. They returned the following night, and every night ever since, their numbers growing to the one-thousand mark and beyond. There are now Nuit Debout events in a handful of other French towns and cities, notably including Lyon and Toulouse.