President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Paris on Thursday morning, having officially accepted French President Emmanuel Macron's invitation to Friday's Bastille Day festivities. But while Trump prepared to be the guest of honor at Friday's parade, French and American activists created a "No Trump Zone" to protest the American president's arrival in the French capital.
Trump will be the first U.S. president to attend the annual military parade since George H.W. Bush did so in 1989. Trump's visit marks the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I, and American troops will therefore march along French troops during Friday's parade. But on Thursday evening, French and American activists came together to protest Trump's arrival in Paris and his positions on climate change, immigration, capitalism, and more.
The "No Trump Zone" was organized by Nuit Debout Paris, the organization that last year spearheaded numerous protests against French labor laws. The Paris Against Trump contingent, which mobilized shortly after Trump's election victory in November and later attended the Women's March in Paris, also participated in the No Trump Zone.
Lumia Perniciaro, who works with Paris Against Trump, tells Bustle that working with the group has been her "initiation" into organizing. After Bernie Sanders' candidacy and other grassroots efforts showed her the potential to create a political shift, she took the strong beliefs she had always invested in academia and started to put them into political organizing. "My apathy kind of gave way when I saw that something else was possible, and on a huge scale," Perniciaro says.
Perniciaro also says she believes Trump's policies and behavior pose an international threat, which is what drives her to resist Trump from abroad despite living in France for six years.
"I believe in social, economic, and environmental justice, and everything that this man represents and tries to put into place or that his administration tries to put into place threatens those very values," Perniciaro tells Bustle. "This is an international threat, and so I think that it concerns every single citizen in this world."
The No Trump Zone was one of three major protests against Trump's visit. There was another anti-Trump protest on Thursday evening organized by Democrats Abroad France, and one more protest is scheduled for Friday afternoon against both Trump and Macron. These intersectional protests are all particularly significant because, among other things, they challenge Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement in the very city that it was signed. It is also a city that Trump has routinely criticized for terrorist attacks.
During the Nuit Debout general assembly, various protest attendees went up to the microphone to explain why they were there, and why it was important to resist Trump. Some talked about climate change and the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline, while others talked about his policies targeting marginalized communities.
Sylvestre Jaffard, a French activist who attended both of Thursday's protests, says he finds it necessary to resist Trump because he does not believe "that we should be cut off by borders." He argues that what happens in the U.S. significantly affects the rest of the world.
"I’ve been involved in protesting against Trump since he’s been elected," Jaffard tells Bustle. "I’ve been an activist on various social justice, anti-racism, anti-sexism causes. When Trump was elected, that was a big signal that all of a sudden there was somebody there that was an incarnation of all these things I’ve been fighting against."
One activist who appeared in front of the crowd disparaged Macron's decision to invite Trump to Bastille Day festivities. Speaking in French, he told those assembled in the square that he had witnessed Trump arriving at Les Invalides, where Napoleon's tomb is situated, and he expressed his distaste at the pomp and circumstance with which Trump had arrived. He also briefly remarked that France was slowly becoming Americanized in its social and economic systems — and he was not the only one who was worried about this.
Ruth Herold was born and raised in the United States, but her husband is French and she has citizenship in both countries. She currently resides in France, and she attended the No Trump Zone protest with her 12-year-old daughter, Eva. Although France is now her home, Trump's presence in Paris compelled her to take to the streets and protest. However, Herold shares the concern about Macron leading France in a more American direction and says she hopes that Macron's invitation to Trump was not an indication of Trump's influence over the French president.
"I'm worried that he might try to take away some of the things I love about France and make it more American in the wrong way," Herold tells Bustle. "Things have got to move here; any American knows that within a week of arriving. But at the same time, I don't want to see France remade in the image of even what America was 20 years ago."
This was not Trump's first time facing international protests. He reportedly told British Prime Minister Theresa May last month that he would not make a state visit to the United Kingdom this year if there were large-scale protests. Many such protests were organized, and Trump will reportedly delay his official state visit to the UK until next year as a result. More recently, Trump and other G20 leaders faced severe resistance from anti-capitalist protesters in Hamburg, Germany during the past weekend's G20 summit.
For Herold and her daughter, however, protesting Trump is about more than resisting his racist, sexist, Islamophobic policies. It's also about more than Macron's choice to invite him to France in the first place. Eva tells Bustle that being able to come to protests with her mother was important to her, to which Herold adds that she was surprised Eva wanted to come after the lengthy Women's March back in January.
"I think it's so important to teach our children that we live in a democracy — at least for now — and we have this opportunity to come out and demonstrate safely," she says.