Sunday, May 16

Protesters occupy French theaters to demand an end to the closure of cultural spaces

Theaters, cinemas, museums and other cultural spaces have been closed since France’s last total shutdown in October, and have remained closed despite the fact that most businesses reopened in December.

The pressure has been building for weeks and thousands of people marched in French cities last Thursday to demand a reopening – with social distancing – of the cultural sector.

The Paris march ended with around 50 people forcing their way into the closed Odeon Theater and refusing to leave.

Similar actions were seen Tuesday in two other theaters: the Colline in eastern Paris and the National Theater in Strasbourg.

The university students also spent Monday night at the regional theater of Pau in southern France.

Karine Huet, secretary general of the National Union of Musical Artists of France, said that “this is a national movement.”

“The regional unions have responded and it is beginning to be built. They are getting organized, ”he told AFP from inside the Odeon on Tuesday.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot visited the Odeon on Saturday and promised to continue the talks, but the union response has been unequivocal.

“Occupy! Occupy! Occupy!” was the call on Tuesday of the culture section of the CGT union, adding that it was a direct continuation of the “yellow vest” protests that shook the country two years ago.

At the Colline Theater, dozens of students were seen holding signs that read: “Must-open opening” and “Bachelot, if you don’t open, we’ll come to your house to play.”

A source at the theater said its director, the celebrated writer and theater director Wajdi Mouawad, had allowed in about 30 art students when they arrived on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, students in Strasbourg described their protest as a “mobilization act aimed at showing the government the seriousness of our situation and improving the rights of the self-employed affected by the health crisis”, calling for similar occupations throughout France.

In addition to the reopening of cultural spaces, the protesters want an extension of the tax exemption for the self-employed (currently in effect until August 2021), and better support for other seasonal and self-employed workers, as well as urgent efforts to address the financial situation. and mental health crises faced by students amid the pandemic.

France has one of the most generous artist support systems in the world, providing a living wage to all types of people working in the arts and media. But the system has been affected by the turmoil of the pandemic, and many have been forgotten.

There is also consternation over some of the government’s decisions, such as keeping large museums closed and allowing small private galleries to reopen.

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