Our last four days in the Schengen region were spent in Lyon, France, and were very unfortunately timed during protests throughout France after a police officer killed a teenager in Paris. The protests turned to riots, vandalism, and looting right outside of our Airbnb, which put a damper on our visit.
We were out walking around the city when we noticed a tickle in our throats and the people around us coughing. We had no idea what was happening, but it did remind me of the time I was accidentally bear-maced in a hotel elevator in Seattle. We tried to sit down at a cafe but the waiter said the owner was closing because it was too dangerous. I didn’t learn how to discuss riots in high school French, and the waiter’s English wasn’t great, so we had no idea why.
We decided to be safe and head back to our terrible Airbnb (that’s for another post) and turned on the TV. The protests were a block away, and the police were using tear gas and pepper spray. Safely on the second floor of a secure building, we watched as the sun set and the protests turned to riots and looting.
Diagonally across from our Airbnb was a Fossil watch store, which didn’t have gates and didn’t board up their windows. We watched as people ran down the street past our window, arms full of stolen goods.
We walked by the Fossil store the next morning and it was completely gutted. I would not want to be the employee coming in that morning and finding that mess.
While we felt safe, it was pretty wild to see. It’s hard to see in photos, but videos take up too much precious space here. For the videos, check out my Instagram.
I understand the need to protest, especially when you feel like the odds are stacked against you, when you are trying to make change, inspire change, be change, and corruption, politics, and capitalism always win. Yes, life is unfair, but it can be even harder for marginalized people who have no privilege, while the privileged people in power are hoarding every sweet morsel they find.
I can even understand the rage and mob mentality of the situation overtaking logic and common sense when you’re young and maybe lack the experience to know to walk away, no matter how much the anger boils in your blood, the frustration past the tipping point, your head about to explode with the injustice.
But the majority of the people we saw were grown ass men, adults who know better, people who were taking advantage of the situation, not fighting the good fight. Have they been dealing with decades of oppression, of struggles? Or maybe they’re opportunists? I don’t understand the nuances of French politics and history, but I like to think it was a moment of desperation, not opportunity.
Either way, it was quite the experience watching it safely from our Airbnb.
It was also very stressful! I could really use a glass of wine 🙂