A little late to the big protest

I tell you what, let’s forget the fact that you’re coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all. *

I like a good protest as much as your average expat — much more, probably. Yesterday’s demonstration in Luxembourg’s center promised to be a big one. At the end of July, after Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker announced his intention to go ahead with budget reforms over the protests of unions and other groups, those disregarded organizations announced the September protest. So I noted 16 September, 5:30pm, on my calendar and started reading the politics section of the newspaper more carefully.

Protests in Dublin, while I was there, could be large or small, but they were always long. As in the US, they usually took about an hour to get warmed up. So, at about 6:15 yesterday, I walked to Place Clairefontaine to snap a few photos and to learn how to dissent publicly in the Luxembourgish style. I wanted to met Anita for the walk back home, so I thought, “Boy, this timing worked out perfectly!”

Here’s what I found on Place Clairefontaine.

There were enough barricades for a big protest — but no people at all. A mobile stage was already pulling away from the square near the government buildings. Had I really missed the most anticipated manifestation of the year? I checked the time: alright, the event was to start at 5:00pm, not 5:30. Still, thousands of people were expected to come — was it even possible, in ninety minutes, to move that many people into the small space and out again?

In a word, yes. At the nearest major road, I found buses pulling away from the curb, filled with people wear green and red ponchos and hats.

Here’s what I missed, from a photo courtesy the competent photographers of L’essentiel:

Luxembourgers clearly prefer their demonstrations “short and far between.”** From the newspapers this morning, it looks like I missed a large, colorful, and incredibly well-organized protest. Four to five thousand people, several speeches, a radical fringe, and vuvuzelas. But I saw the most remarkable feature of the event: there were hardly any stray fliers or trash. At worst, the nearest refuse bins were full.

Maybe they didn’t stick around because of the rain. It was sunny at 5:00pm (the scheduled start of the protest), but it started to rain by 7:00.

But wait, the BUSES! They planned to be out of the city center by 6:30. They could be home in time for dinner and a quiet evening, apparently the true passions of those who live and work in Luxembourg.

Clearly, I have a lot to learn here. For now, I’ll wait to see whether this mass of efficient and tidy dissidents will have any short-term impact.

What do they want? I’ll tell you in my next post, tomorrow. To the impatiently curious, have a look at the English-language news this morning.

1. “coming a little late to the party”: The West Wing, Episode 6. Sam to C.J., explaining the census.

2. from The Grave by Robert Blair:

The good he scorn’d
Stalk’d off reluctant, like an ill-used ghost,
Not to return; or if it did, in visits
Like those of angels, short and far between.

1 Comment to “A little late to the big protest”

  1. The Expatresse said...
    20 September 2010

    THAT’s a riot!

    Or not, I guess.

    Oh, how very Luxembourgish.