Shouts and screams echoed from every street and alleyway behind, gushing past and with me toward a towering crescendo where the students had gathered at the Sorbonne.
The heat of the night mixed with the fire and tyre smoke in the air had turned the city into an oven. Spitting out of it the young, scarved and masked protesters all come together shouting “Adieu, de Gaulle!”. These chants arrowed from and through gritted teeth in the direction of any judgement upon them. As we got closer, the dizzying insect-like journey before gradually became a uniformed march, hands gripped banners and drumsticks as if on ready spears. Drums gathering speed. All chants coming together in harmony, breaths so loud the dense smoke overhead struggled to keep its own formation.
The riot police, a wall of black about one hundred yards in front, stood like shuffling bulls. Shouts grew louder. The drums beat. Intensity rises. Immediately an explosion of fireworks lights up the police lines and acts as a starting gun. Makeshift bottled molotovs lit the air and arched like shooting stars. Guiding lights for the students.
It was as if an invisible slingshot had snapped them forward. The mass of bodies moved as one through the no mans land. One student controlled by the the momentum of the others and vice versa. The police blockade shuffled. One foot behind and on bended knee. Prime position for their bodies to absorb the blows that were imminent. When close enough to stare directly into the opponents eyes, shouts came from behind and the crowd parted in a zipper like fashion. Into the space made came “le monster”. A volkswagen with flames bursting from the windows and bonnet moved on its own accord, the people who gave the momentum unable to keep up. They slow down to watch. Fathers watching sons on bikes.
Almost comically, all at once, the police realise what is happening. They split like bowling pins with knee joints, bounding and hurling themselves out of the way. Others rolled away blindingly, knocking other comrades over. The result was a mass of kicking limps trying to right themselves but impeded by the heavy vests, batons and shields. The students took their chance and moved to the gap and followed the now lonely and slowing four wheeled warrior. In the ten seconds the gap remained three hundred students gushed through. A fast moving river carrying the debris of the past. Depositing them at the gates of the Sorbonne.
The sight of the large wooden doors opening as if powered by our strides lifted smiles to faces from fast beating hearts. Tears of relief bursted forth. The doors closed behind. The shadows of the retreating police growing smaller, silhouetted by the growing strength of the fires and then silence. We embraced the sit ins as if with long lost loved ones.
We were all different, stronger, purposeful. We had felt change within us. This change was moving our world and things were moving forward. Word came through the workers were joining us tomorrow. The momentum was growing, flowing, moving forward.