Eyewitness account from Paris

A first-hand account from Hermit, who was present yesterday night at the Place de la Sorbonne, where there were clashes between the CRS and protesters.

Submitted by jef costello on March 19, 2006

At 2100, around 400 students and a few kids from the banlieu were scattered around the Latin Quarter, in small groups controlled by the police in the standoffish British style. There were police lines at all the intersections close to the place de la Sorbonne, searching people and stopping mass movement.

We went to a cafe and had a coffee while considering our position. 45 minutes later, we had one final look and discovered that the police had opened the way to the area immediately next to the place sorbonne, and 200 (soon to be 3-4) were at the police barricades. Every intersection but the entrance had been secured by the CRS.

After a stand-offish period where the police water turret sought to keep people from doing graffiti on the fence, someone produced a rope which was used to pull the fence free from its moorings at one end - just enough to fit one person through, just enough for one CRS to hold - and for another attempt to pull down the fence in the centre (all under fire from water cannon and teargas). If there had been bolt-croppers to cut the chains bracing the fence, it would have fallen - but there were not.

Other than the rope there was some generalised looting and smashing of banks etc in the area in which we were contained, and an unsuccesful attempt to burn a police vehicle that formed part of the barricade.

During this time the police had sealed the bottom of the street, and had been slowly advancing. They now advanced at a brisk run under cover of heavy teargas and secured the rope.

After this there was little more to speak of. My friends and I (and many others who didn't want to sit in the road and chant) left through an underground carpark.