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Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store.

Wild picnic in Grand’Place Carrefour, held by Nuit debout Grenoble

Wild picnic in Grand’Place Carrefour, held by Nuit debout Grenoble

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REPORT – Operation “coup de poing” at the Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, on Saturday, 23rd April. Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a picnic in the middle of the supermarket, at the expense of the store. An action – worthy of a scene from a film – against large-scale retail, the symbol of a capitalist system that is harmful to society, according to the demonstrators.

 

 

 

Stop taking pic­tures of me, I’m not a star !” pro­tes­ted the mana­ger of Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, tur­ning his head, and see­king in vain to stop the ruckus that had rei­gned in his store, for a good ten minutes. But, he hadn’t coun­ted on the deter­mi­na­tion of the move­ment Nuit debout Grenoble, orga­ni­zer of the small sur­prise party ; acti­vists, who have been set­tled in the MC2 since 9th April, and who skill­fully orches­tra­ted everything.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © SeverineCattiaux

Distribution of lea­flets by Nuit debout Grenoble at Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, Saturday, 23rd April, 2016. © Séverine Cattiaux – Place Gre’net

At pre­ci­sely 6pm on Saturday 23rd April, 2016, at the Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, forty pro­tes­tors from Nuit debout Grenoble gathe­red in the fruit and vege­table sec­tion, in a snap.

 

Within minutes, two gar­den tables were set up. Protestors from Nuit debout unloa­ded their trol­lies onto the tables, dis­playing a range of pro­ducts from well-known brands : yog­hurt, crisps, drinks, sand­wiches, bis­cuits, etc. Products – manu­fac­tu­red by “Nestlé and Monsanto”, said one pro­tes­tor – col­lec­ted from dif­ferent parts of the hypermarket.

 

The wild pic­nic began. Protestors invi­ted cus­to­mers to come and share, whilst reas­su­ring them : “We are within our rights ! The law allows the consu­mer to taste before buying !” This somew­hat asto­ni­shed, the Carrefour cus­to­mers who wit­nes­sed this grand unpa­cka­ging ; some conti­nued their shop­ping, while others stop­ped for a snack.

 

 

 

Denounce the supremacy of multinationals

 

 

Besides the prin­ciple of legally fee­ding under the nose of Carrefour, the intent of Nuit debout Grenoble’s action was poli­ti­cal and highly symbolic.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © SeverineCattiaux

It’s for pro­tes­tors to denounce the supre­macy of mul­ti­na­tio­nals, par­ti­cu­larly of large retai­lers who “take consu­mers hos­tage and fat­ten sha­re­hol­ders, at the expense of employees and small pro­du­cers”, argues Nuit debout Grenoble.

 

“Carrefour has des­troyed small trade in La Villeneuve, says one of the par­ti­ci­pants of Nuit debout Grenoble. Our inter­ven­tion in this large store today, is also a way of brin­ging us clo­ser to the popu­la­tion of the dis­tricts, which have no choice, but to come shop­ping here.”

 

 

 

“They steal from us, let’s steal from them!”

 

 

The mana­ger of the hyper­mar­ket and his col­leagues qui­ckly joi­ned the tas­ting at the impro­vi­sed stand. A few pre­cedent vigils, merely made the crowd aware, without hos­ti­lity. The ope­ra­tion took place pea­ce­fully and smoothly, from begin­ning to end. The acti­vists were well prepared.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © SeverineCattiaux

Nuit debout Grenoble nego­tia­ting with the mana­ger of Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, Saturday, 23rd April, 2016.

David told the mana­ger of the store : “We will keep our action under control and there will be no theft.” Someone cal­led Camille later confir­med, as she left Carrefour, that the group was duly pre­pa­red ahead of the event : “We were given ins­truc­tions, we knew how to behave. For example, if a client rai­sed their voice, were not to react.

As for the cus­to­mers, there was vir­tually no pro­test. There were one or two who scol­ded the par­ti­ci­pants : “It’s theft […] It’s sad ! Luckily my chil­dren were not so badly brought up…” But, ove­rall, the ope­ra­tion took place in good humour.

 

One Carrefour cus­to­mer appea­red to devour eve­ry­thing on the table. “This gent­le­man told me that he was hun­gry”, said Françoise, in her 60s, a Nuit debout mili­tant, who is now part of the hard core of the move­ment. While clients and pro­tes­ters sna­cked on dif­ferent packets of bis­cuits, acti­vists dis­tri­bu­ted their lea­flets and chan­ted their slo­gan on two or three occa­sions : “On nous carotte, carot­tons-les !” (figu­ra­ti­vely : “They steal from us, let’s steal from them !”), bran­di­shing… car­rots, obviously.

 

 

 

Dialogue of the deaf, but dialogue anyway…

 

 

Slightly set back from the ban­quet offe­red by Carrefour, at its expense, the hyper­mar­ket mana­ger tried to obtain an expla­na­tion from Nuit debout pro­tes­tors as to the rea­son for their pre­sence. Then began the dia­logue of the deaf, which never­the­less remai­ned cor­dial. “This is not against you per­so­nally”, assu­red the acti­vists, “but a sys­tem that grinds small pro­du­cers into the ground, takes cus­to­mers hos­tage, fat­tens sha­re­hol­ders and dis­pa­rages its employees”.

 

To which the mana­ger replied : “So, you have cho­sen the wrong chain ! We work with humans, here. The cashiers are paid pro­perly and I defy you to find a small pro­du­cer who is not happy to work with us.” Duly noted.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © Severine Cattiaux

© Séverine Cattiaux – Place Gre’net

A lit­tle later, ano­ther pro­tes­tor tried to engage in a dia­logue with one of the mana­gers, who was obser­ving the pic­nic with a wor­ried eye… “Did you know that Carrefour is one of the most dama­ging groups to the eco­sys­tem, due to its way of wor­king, accor­ding to a recent report by WWF ?”, asked Camille, without aggressiveness.

 

The mana­ger didn’t react, but argued that she chose to work at Carrefour because “it’s the most humane chain”.

 

A word that, at the end of the day, deci­dedly comes out of the mouths of Carrefour’s employees. “Humane, is not exactly what it is… LVMH’s, Bernard Arnault, who is, among others, a sha­re­hol­der of Carrefour, has utter contempt for these people”, replied the acti­vist, with a soft, yet deter­mi­ned voice.

 

An employee of Carrefour, visi­bly annoyed by the expla­na­tions of the pro­tes­tors, recalls the pas­sage : “We are the second lar­gest employers in France.” – “Yes, but what types of jobs are we tal­king about, and at what cost ?”, conti­nues the other side. So, dia­logue of the deaf, but dia­logue anyway…

 

 

 

Last hurrah : an intervention over the microphone

 

 

Not to abuse a good thing, the pro­tes­tors plan­ned just a half-hour action. As the food began to dry up, and before lea­ving, they wan­ted to make an announ­ce­ment over the micro­phone. All willy-nilly, the mana­ger and staff of Carrefour bent to the wishes of the demons­tra­tors. “But, I don’t want you to say any­thing against the chain over the micro­phone.” This was the only condition.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © Severine Cattiaux

Nuit debout Grenoble nego­tia­ting with the mana­ger of Grand’Place Carrefour in Échirolles, Saturday, 23rd April, 2016. © Séverine Cattiaux – Place Gre’net

This will remain in the memory of hyper­mar­ket cus­to­mers, who will remem­ber this extre­mely rare event, in the his­tory of large-scale retail. Hundreds of Carrefour clients bore witness.

 

For about one minute, the voice of Rosalie, a Nuit debout Grenoble mili­tant, reso­na­ted around this temple of high consump­tion. To say what ? “We must fight against the Work Act (aka the El Khomri law), and the wides­pread poverty that it leads to, and increases” and to call for a gene­ral strike on 28th April. Rosalie com­men­ted later, smi­ling : “I could not read the text we had plan­ned, so I improvised!”

 

 

 

“This was a successful operation”

 

 

At the end of her speech over the micro­phone, the applause came. Victory was com­plete. All that remai­ned was to leave. Protesters clea­ned up the tables, bor­ro­wed from Carrefour, and left the store in single file.

 

Activists from Nuit debout Grenoble shared a wild picnic in the middle of Grand'Place Carrefour supermarket, at the expense of the store. © Severine Cattiaux

Protesters at the end of the action. © Séverine Cattiaux

They rai­sed their arms, as they pas­sed through the store’s anti-theft detec­tors. A store vigil fil­med the merry troop, who mocked, before lea­ving, with a “Thank you Carrefour ! We will return !” all the Carrefour staff and secu­rity team arri­ved as reinforcements.

 

In the street, on the road that leads to the MC2, one of the mili­tants poin­ted out : “It was a suc­cess­ful ope­ra­tion. We made a noise, we pul­led it off, we spoke with the people, and we got our mes­sage across over the micro­phone.

 

 

As a bonus, Françoise even slip­ped a few flyers inside the books sold by Carrefour… “They will serve as book­marks”, she com­men­ted, with a smile.

 

 

Séverine Cattiaux et Joël Kermabon

 

 

 

 

Traduction from Speak English Center

Phone : +33 4 76 50 39 79

1 ave­nue du Vercors, 38600 Fontaine FRANCE

 

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