Three weeks of walking from Charentes-Maritime, 500 km away, and it could all end in an anti-climax for a group of hardcore gay marriage opponents who set out on a ‘pilgrimage’ to Paris on August 11th.
Paris police announced on Thursday they had barred ‘The Watchmen’ (Les Veilleurs), as they call themselves, from assembling at Place de Concorde in the city on Saturday evening, after the group allegedly failed to file for the required permits.
“We regret that we haven’t been able to contact anyone so as to jointly plan terms for the arrival of the ‘March of the Watchmen’ in the city,” Paris police said in a statement on Thursday.
“According to the law, any gathering on a public highway must give rise to a preliminary declaration, something which hasn’t been done as of today,” the statement continued.
Not being able to contact a representative from The Watchmen, the police noted that they had resorted to online social networks to discover the group’s plan to assemble on Saturday at La Défense, before moving on to Place de la Concorde.
For their part, The Watchmen have vowed to continue with their meeting, regardless of police warnings.
“We are under the rule of law here. I can move about freely in my own country,” spokesman Gaultier Bès told BFMTV.
“This isn’t a protest. I don’t consider it necessary to have authorization from anyone in order to stand in the street and read [books],” he continued.
“On Saturday, we’ll be there at La Défense and Place de la Concorde, as stated,” he concluded.
Around half of the 30 or so philosophical pilgrims are university students on their summer break, according to Europe 1 radio, but there are also professionals and retirees among them.
Its very first discussion groups took place in Paris in April, amid a backdrop of surging frustration among gay marriage opponents, clashes with riot police during protests, and a steep rise in the number of violent homophobic attacks in France.
Les Veilleurs, who describe themselves as a "non-violent group", have drawn criticism in recent weeks for failing to formally register their public gatherings and protests with authorities.
On the night of July 3rd, for example, 200 or so demonstrators, under the umbrella of Les Veilleurs, assembled in front of the Elysée Palace in Paris,blocking access to the presidential palace’s entrance in an unannounced protest against gay marriage.
Despite being legalized in May, gay marriage has faced continued opposition from certain quarters, although the once-mainstream Manif Pour Tous (Demo for All) movement has become increasingly marginalized in the passing months.