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2024 Olympics: in Paris, the movement of second-hand booksellers takes a political turn

Quai de la Tournelle (Paris 5e), Albert Abid, a mustachioed bookseller, chews the mouthpiece of a pretty ornate pipe that would have made Nestor Burma happy. Like his colleagues, he does not get angry at a situation that he judges ” problematic “ And “insoluble” since the sending of a rather abrupt letter from the Paris Police Prefecture on July 25, ordering 170 second-hand booksellers – out of the 220 scattered on the banks of the Seine – to move their “boxes” at least for the duration of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games (JO), which will take place on the Seine, on July 26, 2024. Officially for security measures.

A reason that Albert Abid considers fallacious. “Pff… The hidden reason is that we hide our sight, I’m convinced”he says. Before getting ironic: “But we’re not the only ones getting in the way. There are trees too! Are we going to cut them? » Dismantling and then reassembling the green boxes, some of them more than a century old, with the fragility of wooded porcelain, would require such meticulousness that the operation seems to him “unachievable”. “Or it would be a massacre. A third of the boxes will not survive”according to the bookseller.

Even if the order from the Prefecture seems clear and final, the booksellers, rebellious by nature and worried about their profession, are determined to resist. “We were told about the move without consultation. They want to erase us from the landscape even though we are one of the major symbols of Paris, it’s astonishing, plague Jérôme Callais, president of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris. Whereas there is a much simpler solution: have the demining service come before the ceremony, seal the boxes, then reopen them right after. It’s economical, ecological, reasonable! »

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers The 2024 Olympics, subject of conflict between second-hand booksellers and Paris City Hall

Their fight does not go unnoticed. Parisian public opinion, which does not clearly see why we would strip the banks of the Seine in this way, is mobilizing with an online petition, “Safeguarding the second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine”, bringing together 143,000 signatures, a forum of intellectuals in The world… A movement that could make Jérôme Callais optimistic. Except that he no longer has much news from the Prefecture. “On August 8, I had a meeting with an official from the Prefecture who wanted to know how our boxes worked. He wrote a note and that’s it.”he laments.

“Hidalgo does not defend us”

But he is especially angry with the Town Hall, not fully understanding what it is doing: “I find it hard to believe Anne Hidalgo when she publicly says that she loves second-hand booksellers. She doesn’t defend us at all. » On July 10, an information meeting took place at City Hall. Anxious not to attract the wrath of an eminently Parisian trade, the municipality has adopted a flexible position, to the point of submitting a questionnaire to second-hand booksellers offering them several options, including that of maintaining their boxes. That day, we couldn’t imagine a move!says Jérôme Callais. We just had to agree on how to protect our boxes during the ceremony. »

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