FACTCHECK: Is the video of French people sipping wine as their city burns real?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
FACTCHECK: Is the video of French people sipping wine as their city burns real?
Smoke rises in the sky as protesters take part in a demonstration on a national action day on March 23rd in Bordeaux, France (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

In recent days a video showing French people on a café terrace casually chatting and sipping wine as the street burns behind them has gone viral - but is it all it seems?


Several scenes of French protests have circulated across social media in recent days, many of them involving flaming garbage bins, plumes of tear gas, and witty protest signs.

One video in particular has gone viral - showing a scene of customers on an outdoor café terrace casually drinking red wine, seemingly unconcerned by the fire burning in the street behind them. 


Many people across the world have retweeted the video, some likening it to the "This is fine" meme -  a comic strip of a cartoon dog wearing a hat, drinking a coffee, unbothered by a fire raging in the room around it with the word bubble "This is fine". 


Others responded to the tweet calling it "Typically French" and many assumed that the video was taken in Paris. 


READ MORE: Strikes, fires and political upheaval - what to expect in France this week

The video

The video was first posted by the activist Twitter account "@ledecaledu25" - which has shared several images of protests and strikes in recent days and weeks, with a watermark attributing ownership to a Carlito CL. 


The account @ledecaledu25 then clarified in a follow-up Tweet that it had been filmed on Thursday, March 23rd by a customer at the bar Saint-Aubin in Bordeaux - not, as many had assumed, in Paris.


In a call with The Local, the manager of the Saint Aubin bar and restaurant clarified that a fire had indeed taken place on the square on the night of March 23rd.

"Yes [the fire] happened. We were not affected though, and authorities came to deal with it. We had no problems", the manager told The Local.


The manager of the restaurant told French TV station TF1 that: "Life goes on, it's the French paradox; it's the revolution and you still sip your glass of wine at apéro hour."

A screenshot from Google Maps Street View of the Bar Saint-Aubin in Bordeaux at Place de la Victoire.


The day the video was filmed - Thursday, March 23rd - marked a nationwide day of strikes and protests in France in the ongoing dispute over pension reform.

More than 1 million people took to the streets in towns and cities across France. The majority of the demonstrators were peaceful, but clashes erupted in several cities towards the end of the protest.

Images from Paris dominated the headlines but Bordeaux and also Rennes saw violent clashes and small fires.

French news group Actu FR for Nouvelle Aquitaine, reported that the march made its way toward Place de la Victoire, which is where the events were filmed.

There were reports of a McDonald's on the other side of the square being vandalised, according to Actu Fr and France Bleu Gironde.


TF1 reported that later in the evening garbage cans were set on fire by some protesters near the University of Bordeaux, which was blocked by student activists during Thursday's action and sits about 120 metres from where the video would have been filmed.

Other Twitter users also posted videos on March 23rd of fires in Place de la Victoire. 


So while the viral video does not show Parisians sipping wine as the capital burns, it does show events in Bordeaux on the same day.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

And it's far from the only image showing locals taking a fairly relaxed attitude to protests - the below photo from AFP's Anna Kurth shows passers-by pausing to photograph and film a pile of blazing waste in Paris.

Photo by Anna KURTH / AFP

In truth, while the fires undoubtedly make good press photos - especially in close-up - most of them are small and quickly extinguished while, in the background, life goes on. 



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