(Rana Moussaoui’s article appeared on Yahoo.com, 3/10. Photo: A march in Paris ended with around 50 protesters forcing their way into the Odeon Theatre and refusing to leave.)

French protesters were occupying three of the country’s leading theatres on Wednesday as frustration grew over the months-long halt to cultural activities imposed due to the pandemic.

Theatres, cinemas, museums and other cultural spaces have been shut since France’s last full lockdown in October, and have remained closed despite most businesses reopening in December.

Pressure has been building for weeks and thousands marched in cities across France last Thursday to demand they reopen with social distancing.

The Paris march ended with around 50 people forcing their way into the shuttered Odeon Theatre and refusing to leave.

Similar actions were seen on Tuesday at two other major theatres — the Colline in eastern Paris and the National Theatre of Strasbourg — and there have been similar protests at venues in Pau, Nantes and Chateauroux.

“This is a national movement,” said Karine Huet, secretary general of the National Union of Musical Artists in France.

“Regional unions have responded and it’s starting to build. They are getting organised,” she told AFP from inside the Odeon on Tuesday.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said Wednesday that the occupations were “not the right way” to pressure the government.

“They are useless… These actions are dangerous because they threaten our fragile heritage sites,” she told parliament, though she added that a government meeting was due Thursday and would lead to “significant announcements for the cultural world”.

– ‘Opening essential’ –

The unions have so far been unimpressed.

“Occupy! Occupy! Occupy!” was the call on Tuesday from the culture section of the CGT union, adding that this was a direct follow-on from the “Yellow Vest” protests that rocked the country two years ago.

At the Colline Theatre, dozens of students were seen with signs reading: “Opening essential” and “Bachelot, if you don’t open, we’re coming to play at your house”.

A source from the theatre said some 30 arts students had been allowed to enter the theatre by its director, the celebrated theatre writer and director Wajdi Mouawad, who was in the middle of rehearsals when they arrived on Tuesday.

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