40 years ago: Turn up, chain-in, sit-down!

IssueJune 2013
Comment by Albert Beale

At 4pm on Saturday, over 30 ‘tourists’ in Notre Dame cathedral quietly took loose ends of chains from under their clothing, each passed them to the nearest person, and within a few moments three pillars were surrounded by circles of people holding banners calling for an end to French nuclear tests. 

The Greenpeace walkers had arrived in Paris!

After these people were secure, the support actions started. At 4.05pm the press were informed, explanatory leaflets were distributed, and the first of 100 supporters began to arrive at the church.

Some came with more placards to sit there, but enough for another four pillars came with more chains. Soon about 70 people were chained there... The church had been a place where we could demonstrate publicly and with some immunity from arrest [having entered France illegally].

[Later] some 150 people joined up outside and started walking to the Elysée Palace, leafleting on the way. The police seemed content just to follow. When we were nearly there, they pounced.

About 50 surrounded the demonstrators who all sat down and began to sing. Eventually a large police coach arrived, and, in three trips, ferried everyone to the Opéra police station.

For several hours, people sang and made merry while the police laboriously took down our particulars.

At 1.30am we were finally allowed out a few at a time, just after the Metro had stopped running. Nobody was charged.

After being smuggled across the border, we had arrived in Paris in small groups on Thursday and Friday.

The border police had lists of names and photographs so that most of us could not get in as individuals, let alone as the group that had sat at the Herseaux-Wattrelos border point for nearly a week.

Until the Saturday afternoon itself, only a handful of people knew what the plans were or where the other groups were.

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