After months of controversy, President Emmanuel Macron has decided to abandon the movement of second-hand booksellers from the banks of the Seine in preparation for the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympic Games.
The second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine can take a breather. After months of battle with the police headquarters and Paris town hall, they finally won their case: they will not have to move. “ We will all sleep normally after seven months of nightmare », rejoices to AFP the president of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris, Jérôme Callais.
At the end of July 2023, booksellers were informed that for security reasons, several hundred boxes of books installed on the quays would have to be temporarily moved a few days before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, on July 26 on the Seine. The decision caused an outcry, particularly within the cultural community. More than 40 personalities had published in August a forum demanding the maintenance of these small open-air bookstoreslisted as French intangible cultural heritage, the first step in possible recognition as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Nearly 130 booksellers, out of some 180 members of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris, finally decided in January to initiate a “ legal action in administrative court » to challenge the dismantling. They intended to ask the “ non-abduction » boxes or, « last resort “, compensation and a “ dignified and respectful treatment » of their small open-air bookstores, listed as French intangible cultural heritage, the first step in possible recognition as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Faced with their revolt, the police headquarters took a step towards the second-hand booksellers by accepting “ to sacrifice certain areas which will therefore not be open to the public “. With this proposal, 428 boxes instead of 604 had to be dismantled, “ or less than half » of the 932 docked at the quays of the Seine, according to the prefecture. Despite this concession, the situation was at an impasse. “ We stood on our position and the prefecture on theirs », explains Jérôme Callais.
Noting that no consensus solution could be found, Emmanuel Macron finally asked the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin and the Paris police prefect that no bookseller be forced to be displaced. According to his entourage, the Head of State is showing them “his attention, considering that this is a living heritage of the capital”. “ We are all very happy and we thank the president, who understood that we were the soul of Paris », greets the president of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris.
The security system will therefore have to be adapted accordingly, “ the spaces concerned on the high platforms are therefore no longer likely to accommodate the public during the ceremony », According to the Élysée. This upcoming decision had already been taken into account in the gauge of the opening ceremony, revised downwards at the end of January to around 300,000 spectators, assured a source close to the matter. The entire security system for the opening ceremony must be presented at the end of March, once all consultations with local elected officials and stakeholders have been completed.