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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