Tony and I are leaving the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower. We pass a Parisian man who is speaking to a small group of people. When we are right next to him, he raises his voice, his arm and yells, "Degage, degage." It's forceful, strong and cruel. He intentionally uses the informal which appears to be a further insult. I turn to see to whom he might be addressing. Three women, dressed in the way of the gypsy, are crossing the street, but they turn and slink away, obeying his command instantly.
It was a remarkable moment of power and subservience to that power.
The incident was a repeat of what Tony had witnessed two days earlier. On his morning pastry run, he came upon two women, one who appeared to be doing the talking. A Parisian man approached the women, yelling the same words we heard at the park, "Degagez." He also accused the woman by yelling, "Pickpocket, pickpocket." The accused woman retreated.
In 2015, workers at the Eiffel Tower went on strike to protest the increase in organized gangs of pickpockets. Workers at the Louvre did the same in 2013. They too had noticed more organized theft that had begun to include children. The strike brought increased security to both Parisian landmarks, both of which are critical to tourist revenue.
Reflecting on the incident, we realize we haven't seen any of the typical scams we've seen in the past. We haven't been approached, no one's asked us if we've lost a ring, no one has asked us to sign a petition and then donate money. When people band together and fight back, it's a powerful thing.
It appears that Parisian citizens are fighting back to protect the tourist industry. Maybe the scammers, the pickpockets will leave; perhaps they have all gone to Greece and Italy--where I recently witnessed their latest ploy.
In the company of 60 teenagers, I saw multiple times, a scammer who gave the student a gift: a rose. The unsuspecting (not for long) student takes the gift, and when he doesn't pay, the kind giver becomes belligerent.
Stealing for a living is hard work. Keeping that living might be even harder--except when we work together.