On the night of april 9 2016, people gather in the place the la Republique as they have been occupying this symbolic spot for over a week. Around 2am, some protesters decide to block the streets around the place. At 3 am, a car is put on fire, leading to tensions with the riot police. The violence is put to sleep around 5am when other protesters decide to sit in front of the riot police, preventing others to throw bottles and rocks.
Called Nuit debout, which loosely means “rise up at night”, the protest movement is increasingly being likened to the Occupy initiative that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in 2011 or Spain’s Indignados.
Despite France’s long history of youth protest movements – from May 1968 to vast rallies against pension changes – Nuit debout, which has spread to cities such as Toulouse, Lyon and Nantes and even over the border to Brussels, is seen as a new phenomenon.
It began on 31 March with a night-time sit-in in Paris after the latest street demonstrations by students and unions critical of President François Hollande’s proposed changes to labour laws. But the movement and its radical nocturnal action had been dreamed up months earlier at a Paris meeting of leftwing activists.