On Sunday, we arrived at Bastille Square in Paris under heavy rain, ready for what had been billed as a “Day of Anger”. All the protesters had united there for one common cause: to scream about their hatred of anybody who didn't share the same views as them.At first, it was supposed to be a gathering against the French president, François Hollande. In a general sense, the philandering president's popularity has surged since news broke of his affair with actress Julie Gayet but there are still those who aren't best pleased with him, for all number of reasons. Chief among these seems to be his continued status as a relative liberal of French politics. The crowd seethed at anyone who would listen about their dislike of abortions, the gays and the Jews and their love of "free speech". The one thing keeping the whole thing vaguely cohesive was a hatred of Mr Hollande and his Socialist Party.
Bastille Square was far from full; the police said there were about 17,000 protesters. The organisers said there were ten times more. I reckon the police had it about right.Before a fist had been shaken in anger, Femen showed up to protest against the protest. There were about ten girls but by the time we arrived they had already been bundled into police vans, the crowd chucking shouts of "whores" at them as they were whisked off to the station. Their clothes were the only part of them that hadn't been arrested, left lying on the busy street.Then the march began.The lack of unity quickly became evident. The Catholics were leading the way, wearing blue, green, and red – the uniform of the notoriously right-wing, royalist town of Versailles. They had come to keep up the fight against gay marriage and abortion. They waved royalist flags, longing for the good old days of the Ancien Régime where the aristocracy were truly noble and peasants were really fucking impoverished.Unsurprisingly, supporters of the National Front were there, even though the protest hadn’t been called by any political party. Weirdly for a political demonstration, most of the protesters claimed to be “apolitical”. We saw some guys using their keys to scratch the word “Hatred” off a poster. On the posters were pictures of National Front leader Marine Le Pen, “controversial” comedian Dieudonné – the guy who invented Nicolas Anelka's beloved “quenelle” gesture – and Manuel Valls, current Minister of the Interior. The protesters left only the picture of Manuel Valls unscathed, as if he were the sole hater between the three of them, and not the other much more racist ones.
The most agitated protesters were at the rear of the procession. We saw people from the Union Defence Group (GUD), a far-right student group, all dressed in black, with a big poster calling for a coup. At the same time, pro-Dieudonné militants were waving flags in honour of their hero and were still protesting for “freedom of speech”. They took the opportunity to use that freedom by taking selfies of themselves doing the quenelle on their phones and poking fun at the Holocaust (or “Shoah”) by singing “Shoah-nanas” – a pun that works on two equally hilarious levels. It sounds like “chaud” and “Ananas” – French for “hot pineapple”. Another take is that “nanas” is French slang for “chicks”. So “Holocaust chicks”. Just for good measure, they were also chanting: “JDL [Jewish Defence League], you motherfuckers!”An uneasy and weird alliance seemed to be forming between the trad racists of the French far right and some Arabic and black people, who'd attended in annoyance at the banning of their hero, Dieudonné. Weirdly, we also saw supporters of the Paris Saint Germain football team, clad in club shirts, scarves and caps, waving smoke grenades and yelling “Thank You, Anelka!” in reference to this.The crowd walked to Vauban Square, near the Invalides. When they got there, we noticed the first signs of unity – people listened to anti-government speeches and laughed together at the punchlines.
We left the square at around 6PM, at the same time as most of the protesters. We were wet and depressed but clearly not as angry as those who began fighting with riot police about half an hour after our departure. According to reports, 250 people were arrested and 19 cops were injured.More from not-so-gay Paris:WATCH – Femen – Sextremism in ParisI Spoke to Anti-Gay Marriage Protesters in Paris