Between anger, sadness and resignation, the Parisians lived their first night of no exit between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturday evening.
Travelers dragging their suitcases at arm’s length. A few garbage collectors who are finishing their tour. A young woman went out to get her medicine, another came home from work. Paramedics waiting for their next emergency. Homeless people again left to fend for themselves. A dozen pigeons perched on the consoles of a balcony. And a police vehicle patrolling the avenues. There are only them left, in the streets of a deserted Paris. Saturday evening, for the first time since the period of the Occupation, a curfew is imposed from 9 p.m. to the entire capital, placed in a state of health emergency, like its region as well as eight other large cities in France, for at least four weeks.
“The measure of too much”, for Mathilde, 23, who came to save appearances with her friends at a terrace around 7:30 p.m. near the Place de Clichy, before being reduced like the others to stay at home until 6 a.m. “Today, I feel imprisoned”, she annoys. Polled, the troops around him wonder as much about this name of curfew – “We don’t feel at war” -, that on the choice of his schedule: “9 pm is incomprehensible. You take one drink, you take two! There, we will hardly have time for the first one ”, one of them judges, even though her friend, just back from London, cannot help but find control of the less chaotic situation in France.
In Paris, near the Place de la République, Saturday evening. Photo Cha Gonzalez for Liberation
“The problem is, it’s an invisible war. This virus, we never have it in front of our eyes ”, says Louis, a 30-year-old executive. While waiting for his drink at the entrance of the Dépanneur bar, he imagines catching up elsewhere, having thought of escaping for a weekend in Le Touquet (Pas-de-Calais). In the background, two of her friends fret about the expected effects of this measure. The curfew is «acceptable», judge first, while finding that it will be useless. And at least agree with the second on one thing: “We will make this effort out of good citizenship.” One eye on the watch, the three friends say they will not prolong their evening excessively. Same wisdom at the neighboring terrace, while a little further down the street, Charles equates this measure to “A disguised closure of bars and restaurants”.
In the corner of a terrace in the Abbesses district, a young woman admits her discomfort when she thinks back to this date of October 17, fifty-nine years to the day after the repression of Algerian anti-containment demonstrations in the capital. “It’s crazy, I don’t even know if the government noticed it.” Inside, three acquaintances line up the shots handed out by the waiter, more restless than the previous evenings. His colleague reminds the troops at the table of the early closure at 8:30 p.m. “In five minutes, I don’t want to see anyone here anymore.” Two regulars play with the line, before agreeing to speed up the flow of their descent. Opposite an already closed restaurant, the bar empties in record time, while the two waiters stack the glasses, before putting away the tables and chairs which they disinfect one last time. “War is declared on the young”, chants a customer barely out of the bar, while listing the aperitifs that she will offer at home to those wishing to accompany her.
At 11:10 p.m. on the Grand Boulevards, Saturday. Photo Cha Gonzalez for Liberation
Under the skytrain, a jogger finishes his effort. A first patrol rolls in step, a handful of minutes from the fateful hour. No one, however, is determined to speed up the pace, although some riders seem to be stepping on the pedals a little harder. On the Barbès quay, Clément did not plan to issue an exit certificate. If he confides having “calculated [son] Travel time”, he also recognizes that this will “little bit just” to get home on time, fifteen minutes from here.
A few hundred meters further, in front of the Gare du Nord, a row of CRS trucks attracts the few curious still scattered. In front of them, the participants of a wild demonstration have just been dispersed by the police. Having left Les Halles thirty minutes earlier, the rally was launched at the appeal of the collective “Bas les masques”, and denounces the curfew applied in the capital to stem the epidemic of coronavirus. “We were nearly a hundred”, David account. He came without a mask and without a waiver, “But with my legs and my bike to get back to République!” he lets go before mounting his machine under the pressing gaze of the officers. Vincent was at another demonstration near the Place de la Bastille. The 42-year-old screenwriter returns in revolt: “I do not understand that we do not rebel against this measure. We are violating our most fundamental freedoms. ” Without dispensation, he managed to pass three checkpoints, not the fourth. Result: a fine of 135 euros, “I yelled at them”, he smiles, visibly little dissuaded by the amount, and assures that he will try “to organize the next demonstrations ”.
Around Gare du Nord shortly before 9:30 p.m. Photo Cha Gonzalez for Liberation
On the forecourt of the station, there are only taxis, a few buses remind us that public transport continues to run, mostly empty. In ten minutes, the city has become silent, crossed here and there by a few latecomers. Expected at a party, two friends lengthen their stride. “We should have all been confined until August, that would now prevent us from taking half-measures every two weeks”, slice one of them, reassembled. Suitcase at his feet, Doctor Cartier, disembarked Friday evening in Paris for a medical congress, awaits the last train for Arras. The 55-year-old dermatologist grimaces at this “Gloomy climate” and affirms: “The curfew will not have any convincing results.” Young people, targeted “wrongly” by this measure had, according to him, “Realized that it was necessary to protect the oldest”. And to cite the example of his two children, students in Paris, who themselves chose to limit their social contacts. In front of him, another traveler filled “in doubt” his travel certificate, not knowing if his train ticket would be sufficient in the event of an inspection.
Far from the evening blues, the delivery men are hard at work. More than ever this evening, the streets of Paris are theirs. While one of his friends ticks his fourteenth order of the evening, Adnan, 30, changes Vélib and leaves to deliver a formula for a new caterer in the Saint-Georges district. “We still have more work to do but the races are closer together because people order close to home, so we earn a little less on each one”, he explains. In the only sign to illuminate part of the alley, the manager validates this feeling: “Tonight, we had a jump in orders around 10 pm and it is possible that we will keep this pace for the weeks of curfew.”
The owner of a nearby fast-food restaurant prefers to remain cautious about the expected benefits of the curfew. The manager of a large brasserie in the Xe district not far from there, it closed shop at 9 p.m., and admits that the delivery system will be “More complicated to apply” for his establishment, member of a group of Parisian restaurants.
Across the aisles, onlookers walk their dogs, for their first outing from curfew, authorization ready to be drawn on the laptop. At 71, Evelyne preferred the lights of the Grands Boulevards to bring out her two little bitches; it’s around 10pm, and it feels like it’s the middle of the night. “I have already been stopped by several passers-by, so I feel safer on the avenues.” The retiree sighs: “I no longer dare to wish others a good evening”, while indicating the artery usually so busy.
Place de la République, Saturday evening. Photo Cha Gonzalez for Liberation
Like her, Albane comes home alone. For the 37-year-old actress, a shoot was extended. Not really reassured at the idea of walking around unaccompanied, especially since she arrived in the capital the same morning and must sleep for the first time at a friend’s house near Belleville, the young woman plunges into a metro entrance depopulated, before changing his mind. And opt for a taxi, “safer”, according to her.
Around her and in spite of a few evenings which scent through the windows, the Place de la République is empty. Not enough to satisfy these taxis, which have not registered any customer for hours. Beside them, the halo of the duty pharmacy stands out from a corner. And save this father who came to change, without exemption, the broken bottle of his newborn baby. Marion succeeds him. Coming illico from Pantin, she realized, two days before her operation, that she was missing the two syringes needed for her injection. “This is the first pharmacy I had in mind, so I didn’t think for a minute.” The pharmacist is slow to come forward before providing him with valuable recommendations. Relieved, the young woman might even have been able to spare herself her certificate, as the patrols shone by their discretion during this strange Parisian evening. The first in a long series.