Cars Protest Closed Christmas Fair on the Champs-Élysées

Cars Protest

Fair workers slowed down traffic around Paris to protest the city's decision to cancel the annual Christmas fair at one of its most famous sites.

Dubbed "Operate Escargot" ("snail" in French), the disgruntled workers took to their vehicles on Monday, November 6, 2017, and purposefully went slow on roads leading to and from Paris. As a result, the police were reporting significant traffic jams by 9 AM, particularly in the south, east and west parts of the city.

Protesters' complaint: the government decided in July to not renew its contract with Marcel Campion, the soi-disant "funfair king," to handle the annual Christmas fair on the Champs-Élysées, a famous avenue in the French capital.

Campion's business is prone to some controversy. On the one hand, he has been in charge of the festival since 2008, and according to organizers, the fair has 240 stands which provide about 2,000 jobs; it also manages to attract about 15 million tourists per year. However, many Parisians feel like the actual quality of the festival leaves something to be desired, and it was apparently deemed too kitschy and not cultural enough for the city government's tastes.

According to their decision, the city "wants to focus on offering visitors and Parisians more attractive and innovative events that will enhance the Champs-Élysées in a cultural and aesthetic dimension in keeping with this exceptional site."

They added that they also wanted local and sustainable products at the fair, which is not what Campion's business provides.

These mixed feelings can be found on social media, as the people of Paris respond to these protests.

Matteu Maestracci, known as a presenter for the broadcaster France Info, called the usual Christmas fair an “ugly Christmas market for tourists with its fake, bad and expensive products [...] Like the famous ‘Corsican’ stands whose Cantal-accent [merchants] sell you a ‘local’ €30 sausage that’s been produced in Vosges."

In contrast, a former aid to the politician Marine Le Pen, Florian Philippot, voiced his support for the fair workers, whom he noted were fighting for their own jobs. He added his displeasure at Paris' mayor, Anne Hidalgo, "who doesn’t like either fairs or Christmas.”

Campion was also indicted this year for a separate dispute with the city, concerning the installation of the Paris Big Wheel in the city's Place de la Concorde in 2015 and the conditions under which he received the permit.

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