It was cold, but only for visiting reporters from California. In truth, Paris was a balmy 50°F. Not bad for December. It was also gray and slightly moist, but again, for a Californian, any place without a dry, blue sky is exotic. Paris had been exotic all week.
I and the Planet Experts team huddled together on the cobblestones of la Grande Armée and faced the massive roundabout that encircles l’Arc de Triomphe. Anytime you see a movie set in Paris, if you’re not looking at the Eiffel Tower, you’re looking at l’Arc.
We were there at twelve noon, on the twelfth day of December, on the twelfth day of the COP21 conference, to photograph the #D12 rally. The rally had been impromptu, and originally scheduled in defiance of the municipal ban on demonstrations following the Paris Attacks.
Shortly before the actual event took place, police would give it the green light, but that’s why I was standing before l’Arc with mere hours between me and a flight home. (That’s also why you’re getting these photographs so late.)
‘For the Victims of Climate Change Past and Present’
The rally, known as D12 or “Red Lines,” was organized by 350.org, Attac, Confédération Paysanne, Réseau Sortir du Nucléaire, Climate Games and others, to raise awareness for the victims of climate change. Before the rally, 350.org’s Duncan Meisel sent us an email asking participants to wear red to “symbolize the victims of climate change past and present – those that will be impacted by our changing climate no matter what kind of deal gets hammered out over the weekend.”
People came in droves, clustered under red umbrellas, trailing crimson ribbons, holding up signs in English and in French.
“Thousands will stand along the Avenue to draw a red line with their bodies, signifying our commitment to defend our common homes,” wrote Meisel. “The line will point towards the real perpetrators of climate crimes in La Défense, where the headquarters of major fossil fuel companies and their financial backers can be found. The action will be a reminder that there is no complete triumph in the battle against climate change – too much has already been lost – but that any progress will be led by the people, not our politicians.”
Fog horns blared and somewhere down l’Avenue a brass band played. Clowns popped out of the crowd to paint the white lines of the street a watery green.
The official D12 website estimates that at least 10,000 showed up to the rally. Rich Plane tweeted that, between the rally at the Peace Wall to the occupation of Pont d’lena, some 30,000 people turned out in all.
As for Planet Experts: We came, we saw and we nearly missed our flight. But it was a beautiful sight to see. Like most of my jet-lagged memories of Paris, it was meaningful and crowded and over much too soon.