(uploaded May 3/21)

MARSEILLES ANTI SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEMONSTRATION, 2012


marseilles port photo

Nov.17, 2012

A thousand dollars had given us a month in a one room apartment in Le Panier, the old district of Marseilles, and we were at midpoint on a cool, sunny Saturday.

marseilles square le panier photo

The square in front of our apartment.

Exiting the North African market area munching on matlou from an Algerian bakery, we were walking up La Canabiere in search of a hot chocolate. Charlie stopped to take a few photos of a street library set into a giant welded copper plate sculpture of a giraffe and offspring. Books were exiting one side as fast as they were going in the other.

Noailles market Marseilles matlou photo

Bakery in sidestreet in the Noailles market area. At the bottom of the photo the bread on the right is the leavened stovetop flatbread, matlou.

Noailles market Marseilles fish store photo

Fish store in Noailles market area.

Street library Marseilles La Canabiere

Street library on La Canabiere, Marseilles' signature street.

Luring us on with its siren call of possible photo opportunities there was a crowd gathering towards the steepled heap at the top of the street. A few placards visible as we got closer and then a parked van bannered with a message in blue and pink: MARIAGE = UN HOMME + UNE FEMME . . . ENFANT = UNE MERE + UN PERE. Well, well . . . .

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles 2012

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles.

Priests on steps of St.Vincent de Paul aka Les Reformes church Marseilles

Priests on steps of St.Vincent de Paul Church, aka Les Reformes, Marseilles

Two young women one with microphone in hand, university students my guess, asked if we understood what was going on and what did we think. My French by 2012 was only useful for ordering cafe au lait and Marseille French itself is a sub-species, so we all switched to franglais. Yes, the nature of the demonstration was fairly apparent, and given the number of priests hovering it seemed particularly Catholic. I asked about one of the banners and they said something about the Catholics and the fascists coming together. A bit of humour from Charlie about how a person might tell the difference, a remark from me on how small the protest was, we all had our laugh and they went on their way.

I'd spoken too soon, the demonstration grew to three or four thousand and we climbed the stairs of the nearby church in search of a better vantage point. On the steps and in the crowd more priests glad-handing with demonstrators. Speeches from a truck platform then a march finally forms up, hemmed in on both sides by tram tracks and passing streetcars.

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Buses and trams repeatedly pushed themselves through the protest.

Beginning of anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Lots of priests in the crowd. Pink and blue the official colours of the protest.

Marshals for anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

These guys guarding the perimeter seemed to attract media attention.

Marshals for anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

No pink for them: the marshals much younger than most of the protesters.

A small group of socialists and a queer (fag/dyke/trans) contingent heckled from the sidelines. One fearsome queen (I think: I was too far away for a good look) in a skirt waved a pair of pink boxing gloves that tastefully matched her running shoes.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

A small counter demonstration forming.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Counter demo.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Counter demonstration confronting a marshal.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Counter demo.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Counter demo.

A small counter-demonstration to an anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Counter demo.

As we all head down towards the Vieux Port, the march stretches over several long blocks. Predominantly middle-age and older men and women, there are a few teenagers and young families in the mix. Everyone is neatly and practically dressed and coiffed, seemingly middle-class, Catholic -- altogether a very white crowd despite an exception or two. This in a multicultural, multicoloured, immigrant city that's 30% Muslim, 10% Jewish.

Onlookers at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Onlookers at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Street scenes and passersby.

Pink, along with blue, is an official colour of the cause and there are touches of it here and there among scarves and sweaters and hats. One man notable for his pink pants is repeatedly in eager conversation with various white robed priests. The march is well behaved, a Catholic flock shepherded by its church. A group of eager marshals, all clean-cut young men whose attitude from time to time makes them seem a bit too much like a fascist youth wing, herd the edges.

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles.

Catholic priests at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Catholic priests at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Catholic priests scattered through the crowd.

placard at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banner at same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

older people at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banner at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banner at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banner at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles.

As we followed alongside the protest I joked to Charlie people looked almost "Normal", albeit as though off to some grim church picnic. A couple of dykes seeing us crack up burst out laughing too. Ahead of us another lesbian pair were moving along with placards, flowers, and a bicycle. Now they'd set up their own small counter demonstration by a subway entrance. Charlie asked if he could take a photograph. They wanted to know which side we were on. Really!? Us? I gave Charlie a big hug and they said as long as he agreed not to use the photo in any public venue. Nearby a woman in a hijab watching the four of us, an incredulous look on her face, big eyes as we hugged. After we moved off I doubled back to give them our email address in case they wanted a copy of the photo, but they'd already disappeared into the subway.

Finally the protest turned off onto St. Fereol, a major pedestrian street that lead to a long narrow square. At the entrance to the square the marshals for the march linked arms and blocked entry to the small left wing counter protest following. Now the two sides were face to face, chanting slogans and hurling insults. Soon a police squad with riot shields arrived to stand between.

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles.

That seemed to be bringing things to a close here, so Charlie and I headed off in search of some other access to the square and speechifying. Most of the sidestreets were blocked off by cops and we ended up in front of the Prefecture watching from a distance. Charlie took a couple more photos then we settled for a hot chocolate at the Virgin megastore cafe. A young couple, male and female, wearing socialist badges came in behind us and we exchanged a few pleasantries but the language barrier kept it to that.

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

banners at anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles

Anti same-sex marriage demonstration Marseilles.

Though the far right National Front vowed to do away with same-sex marriage and replace it with civil unions, it's been suggested by Associated Press a third of those in same-sex marriages supported the party in the 2015 regional elections. And in a national survey before the 2017 first round of the French presidential election, 16% of all LGBTQ voters said they were voting National Front, 2% higher than support from the electorate overall.

Peter in Marseilles Charlie in Marseilles

street art Marseilles

pigeon