Back in 1984 French students in Paris rebelled against the education edicts of President Mitterand's socialist government. The protestors emptied the Sorbonne and took control of St. Germain. The police called on the CRS, the fascist SWAT squads, to deal with the manifestations blocking the Left Bank's most traveled boulevard.
Students anticipated an afternoon attack, however the sun set without a confrontation with the riot squads dressed in black and leather.
That evening Philip Brook and I were waiting at the Cafe Le Flore for a dealer. The cafe was close to my hotel. We arrived on time, but Chaim was running late as usual and Philip said, "I hope he gets here before all hell breaks loose.."
"Doesn't seem like anything is going to happen."
"It's only a matter of time." The Australian journalist glanced at the two opposing camps. Both were hordes of shadows in the evening's gathering darkness. "They are two puddles of gas in need of a match."
"We're in luck that we won't be here for that fire." I spotted Chaim. The fat Jewish dealer was scurrying along the sidewalk.
"Excuse me if I don't have a cafe. I don't like crowds."
"No offense taken."
Philip and Chaim exchanged money for China White. We signaled for the check and paid the waiter. The rest of the crew were pulling the tables off the terrace. The maitre de yelled at them to speed it up.
The students were shouting slogans. The CRS slammed their batons on plastic shields. Philip and I snorted a bag each. The # 4 was stronger than normal. We became one with nothing.
"Now all we need is the match and here is comes." Philip pointed to a chauffeur-driven black sedan with government plates. The CRS parted for the limo, which crossed the DMZ into the ranks of the students, who recognized the passenger as the government's education minister. They surrounded the Citroen and rocked it on the wheels.
I expected the riot squad to save the minister, but then simply watched the students' attempt to upend the limo. Philip nudged me.
"Let's get out of here."
"Good idea," I replied, but saw the terrified face of the driver and said, "Just a minute."
"Where are you going?"
"To stop someone from getting hurt."
The driver was a worker. One day the students would be functionaires for a government. I strode across the boulevard and pushed away several students from the driver's door.
"Casse-toi." I motioned for the rioters to step away from the car. I worked at a nightclub. I was used to handling crowds.
I waved for the driver to take off. The limo took off into the night and I returned to Philip, who was nodding out against a street pole.
"You really are an asshole."
"Not as much as the CRS." I heard a whistle. The police charged into the crowd. Batons struck skulls. Philip and I fled to my hotel on Rue de le Seine and watched from the window, as the CRS taught the Sorbonne students a lesson in power.
In the morning the city workers washed the blood from the gutters and by 10am business on the Left Bank was back to normal.
That was over thirty years ago, however the CRS have succeeded in passing the tradition of nightsticks and repression to the next generation, judging from their treatment of protestors at the Global Warming summit in Paris just two weeks after Muslim militants attacked nightclubs and a concert hall in the City of Light.
Once more life goes back to normal fast when fascism is the rule.