The “Nuit Debout” Phenomenon in France

The French people standing up for their democracy

May 17th, 2016
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Thousands of french people meet every night or a few nights a week in most cities of France to talk about democracy. Place de la République in Paris, Cours Julien in Marseille or Place Guichard in Lyon, hundreds of thousands of people from different backgrounds gather to express their anguish about the future but also to find common solutions.

The movement has started on the 31st of March 2016 to protest against the “Loi du Travail” or “El Khomri law”, labor reforms proposed by the government. These reforms, say the French government, aim at providing new liberties and new protections to the enterprises. The law would amend the labor Code to give more freedom of negotiation to the companies.

Since it was unveiled on the 17th of March, the project has been criticized by the right wing, a few people from the left wing but also from syndicates and student organizations.
On the 17th of March 2016, between 69 000 and 150 000 people marched in the streets against the “Loi du Travail” and on the 31st of March the contestations increased as syndicates and student organizations issued a call and the strikes included close to a million people.

This demonstration gave birth to the movement “Nuit Debout” (that can be translated as “Night Standing Up”), a pacific and civic act taking possession of the  Place de la République in Paris. The movement spread to most cities in France and the streets and squares have been occupied every night or every few nights ever since. “Nuit Debout” has since been compared to the Spanish Movement Indignados and has even celebrated its birthday on the 15th of May.

A night of standing up consists in meeting somewhere with thousands or hundreds of other people in your city, and everyone is welcome to join. Then some leaders divide people into group talks in which everyone can give his or her opinion about any subject and discuss with other citizens. People mostly talk about democracy and how to change the French democracy for the better, how and what to modify in the current political regime. At the end of the discussion, every group writes a summary and a conclusion of what they have talked about what they have come up with.

The movement also takes some actions about some brands that do not respect democracy and the French laws by having offshore accounts for instance. “Nuit Debout” is a pacific, democracy-aimed phenomenon that has been going on for more than a month and a half now, reunited hundreds of thousands people in France and outside its boundaries as well. It is a good example of people getting involved in their politics and defending their vision of democracy. After a month and a half, the movement still does not have a leader and is a very unpredictable element in France as the government does not have anyone to speak to, it just has to take into account those thousands of people disagreeing with their project.

The earlier development of the problem of the reform is that is was refused by the French Parliament, so the government used an article of the Constitution called the 49.3 to force the reform through. We will see in the next days what pacific answers “Nuit Debout” will find.


Cultural Diplomacy News
Julie Essertel, CD News