A state of emergency was declared in France shortly after the Paris terror attacks left 130 people dead and more than 300 injured. Following the declaration of emergency, minsters met shortly before Christmas 2015 to raise the three-month state of emergency limit to six months, which was scheduled to end February 26, 2016.
What has followed since is of extreme precedent. This week, an indefinite timeframe for the state of emergency, was raised. Already slammed for abuse of powers since its creation in 1955, the government have voted to enshrine the state of emergency laws within their constitution.
In Place de la République, where I interviewed a French tour guide* 6 weeks before the attacks, we spoke about the Crimson Alert in place. Pointing out the military presence on most corners, I asked how it had impacted on life. “The tensions are there, but not,” they had said. “It’s something we don’t speak about. We’re aware. Life has changed; now always the feeling of being watched. Charlie Hebdo changed us, but the government has had a knee-jerk reaction.”
Unbeknownst to both of us, standing in the Place de la République became ironic months later. The personification of the French Revolution’s liberty, equality, and fraternity – values from centuries before; became a gathering place for protestors in January, chanting “Stop the state of emergency.” Citizen fears of the freedom restrictions that ensue from this law were met with a French government digging in their heels. The protest was in vain.
In a late-night vote to amend the French Constitution to include the state of emergency as an amendment, votes were overwhelmingly ‘for’ the process. Foreign Policy reports a 103 to 26 votes to go ahead with the process. More recent reports from French media have incriminated the French government as a crucial vote was conducted; of the 577 deputies who could vote, 441 members were absent from the National Assembly – “76% of all deputies.” [translated quote]
[UPDATE] According to a French National source*, the final vote on the amendment shall take place on March 10th. Yet to be confirmed.
I wonder about the conversation I had those months ago, before everything changed in Paris. I wonder if the person at the front counter of my hotel, who taught me smatterings of French every morning, still smiles broadly. I wonder about the Algerian man who served me coffee, if he still greets strangers with a loud “bonjour!” As for the French-American tour guide who I interviewed that day, and remain friends with, they tell me they’re moving back to the States in a late-night email. But then I think, maybe that’s just to live closer to their parents…
*Private sources will not be identified.
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