The kiss

Le baiserYou must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss…unless it happens to be a man on the street spontaneously embracing a member of the French national police.

It was a modern take on the famous photo by photographer Robert Doisneau, Le Baiser de l’Hôtel de Ville.

It felt more like a scene from New York than Paris – the French don’t often break ranks in public displays of feeling. But as France buried its victims last week, including three police officers, there was a lot of love for les forces de l’ordre.

The police are a fixture of life on the streets of Paris: they’re often seen escorting VIPs on motorcycles, directing traffic, controlling crowds during the frequent demonstrations. And they are often criticized for unfair fines, excessive violence, coming down too hard on minorities.

But this day was different. Off-duty police officers were marching in mourning for their own tragic losses: Clarissa, the young policewoman killed in Montrouge by Amedy Coulibaly, Franck, the officer who acted as a body guard for Charlie Hebdo editor-in-chief Charb, and Ahmed, a Muslim bicycle cop gunned down in cold blood by the Kouachi brothers as they fled.

During the historic Marche Républicaine last week, as 3.5 million people took to the streets all over France and 50 world leaders joined arms against terrorism in Paris, people weren’t looking at the police in fear, but to salute them. They applauded the snipers stationed on top of the buildings along the Avenue de la République.

One gentleman in the crowd was so overcome with goodwill towards the CRS – the riot control forces of the French national police – that he asked if it was okay to embrace one of its officers. The officer hesitated, then gave in as the crowd urged them on. It was captured by French TV crews and became one of the scenes from that day that stole the hearts of viewers across the country.

As I’ve posted before, I’m certainly no fan of men with guns. But I have to confess to feeling a certain admiration for les gardiens de la paix, as the French national police are known. They managed to take out all three terrorists and get the hostages out of that supermarket with no further loss of innocent life.

That’s deserving of a kiss.


  1. davidprosser · January 21, 2015

    Well said Mel. They are deserving of praise when they do their job right and this picture will no doubt be a reminder of just how people appreciated that on the day.
    Maybe it will even bring the police and the people closer together so that there are less accusations of the excess violence we hear about. I hope it brings about a new understanding.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • MELewis · January 21, 2015

      I second those sentiments, David. So far it seems to be making people think twice before they complain about the police. It may not last….but hopefully a spirit of shared values will remain following the events of January. Many thanks for your comments, as ever! 🙂

  2. cheergerm · January 21, 2015

    As you would know, our city of Sydney went through a similar horror not long before the Paris attack. I too feel there is a new found respect for our police force. What a beautiful photo.

    • MELewis · January 21, 2015

      We were in Toronto at the time and I missed that the Sydney hostage taking was a terrorist attack. It’s frightening to see that there is no safe place in the world from these lone wolf extremists – they seem to be the new face of terrorism.

      • cheergerm · January 21, 2015

        He was more of a lone wolf unhinged lunatic who used Islam as a prop, not as much of a terrorist attack as what happened in France. But either way, the seeking attention of the media and the general populace in this way is a totally terrifying development.

  3. Margo Lestz · January 21, 2015

    Such a lovely tribute to those who risk their lives daily to protect us. Thank you.

    • MELewis · January 21, 2015

      Merci! Let’s hope it lasts….

  4. peakperspective · January 25, 2015

    Beautiful and important words, Mel. Oh, to think of the bravery it must take to be a member of the police these days. They’ve really taken a beating this last year.
    And thank you for posting the video. It was truly moving, and a beautiful representation of what we humans beings have to offer each other. Support.

    • MELewis · January 25, 2015

      Merci, Shelley! It was all the more moving for the apparent spontaneity of the gesture. I guess this renewed sense of unity and appreciation for our police forces is one of the silver linings of recent events.

  5. Mélanie · January 26, 2015

    émouvant et touchant, Mel… you did touch my Romanian heart… ❤ c'est quand même dommage et triste qu'il a fallu aux français de tels drames afin d'apprécier et de respecter les forces de l'odre…

    • MELewis · January 27, 2015

      Merci, Mélanie. L’émotion a été vive pendant ces dernières semaines…. I hope we can keep these moments in our hearts to remind us how fortunate we are to have men and women dedicated to ‘serve and protect.’

  6. Pingback: How to call ‘la police’ | FranceSays
  7. Osyth · February 3, 2015

    A fitting, moving and lovely tribute to those that we rely on and often forget. And well done for explaining that in France (contrary to popular belief) there are boundaries in terms of PDAs (public displays of affection) that simply do not get crossed which made that bise so extraordinary and so powerful. Thank you

    • MELewis · February 3, 2015

      Osyth, so good to hear from you! Hope all is well with you in the heart of the hexagon. It is always a pleasure when a fellow expat writer recognizes the truth or is touched by something I’ve seen and felt. Merci!

      • Osyth · February 3, 2015

        All is very good here … have had daughter number 1 and her intended staying for a few days which was lovely but am back to status quo now. I certainly was touched … my thanks to you!

  8. Pingback: Marianne in mourning | FranceSays

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