I heard the woman whisper as she lay her child’s shoes down in front of a row of riot police. “Pour tous les enfants,” she said. For all the children.
Behind her at sunrise were 22,000 pairs to symbolize the 400,000 who planned to march before “public gatherings of two or more people that share a political message” were banned.
I was there at 6am to help line up the shoes in the dark. Many bore messages, letters, notes. For peace, for love, for climate justice. For Anna. For Pierre.
In the direction she was looking: thousands of people defying police repression to march around the Place de la Republique. Those at the front met another line of riot police. Some were tear gassed, some were beaten. We stayed safe.
Just beyond them: the Bataclan. Such pain still spoken by flowers and candles, poems and tributes. As I walked past I felt the only choice to be renewing my resolve for peace.
An hour before: a chain of ten thousand humans, wearing art destined for thousands more. An eerie quiet of a static march in single file, finally broken by the jubilance of a resilient brass band. We followed them to the police line.
We escaped the kettle to go to a television interview. Their focus: inspiring middle school girls to use science and technology to better the world. They ask us: what actions can they take in their everyday lives?
No, break free, I said. You may feel stuck on a path, from school to college to work, with the world’s problems swirling around you. Separate, describe, data-drive you are told. In fact, we are interconnected, nonlinear beings. Gather your friends and family around you: your grandma, her friend, your neighbor’s little brother. Your passions are your gifts, may you make them your service.
On to a communications meeting with Climate Action Network International. The head media people from the world’s NGOs and me. “How do we communicate today’s protests?” they ask. “It absolutely does not represent what is happening all over the world” they decide. In a sentence we dissect the movements we have worked so hard to intersect.
You could call this Day Zero. Already I am tired, but deeply alive. Filled with gratitude, pain, hope, confusion and yet more questions: who am I becoming in the midst of this all? How do we love one another when confronted with broken hearts?