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Reopening of cultural venues: the debate continues before the Council of State



“Here, it is not science against the law, it is science instrumentalised by politics: a real sleight of hand! “, William Bourdon said in the middle of the hearing held at the Council of State on the morning of December 21. With the help of his colleague Vincent Brengarth, the lawyer brought the request of theater professionals before the highest French administrative court in order to urgently request the reopening of cultural establishments.

The day after Jean Castex’s announcements, on Friday 11 December, several professional cultural organizations had shown their willingness to contest the postponement of the opening of theaters, museums, cinemas and theaters, for reasons related to the health crisis . The project being supported by thousands of artists, technicians and other professionals, numerous appeals for interim relief – the usual emergency procedure – were filed with the Council of State last week. Monday, December 21, in Paris, the first nine requests bringing together the interests of the cinema, theater and circus sectors, were examined.

Discriminatory measure?

Over the course of the hearing, the various applicants hammered home their incomprehension and demanded freedom of association, freedom of expression, artistic freedom and equality with other commercial establishments, four fundamental principles that they consider to be in effect. Danger. “The government invokes the general interest, but the general interest cannot be discriminatory!, was carried away the singer Francis Lalanne, at the origin of one of the, should we go singing in supermarkets? “.

Faced with a protest en bloc, the representative of the Ministry of Health, Charles Touboul, recalled the need to“Avoid avoidable deaths”. For him, the health situation is again “Worrying” and “Poorly mastered”, This justifies the prohibition of any risky activity, citing in particular the movement of people, the promiscuity within these mostly closed spaces and the duration of contact between spectators. At his side, Michel Parigot, president of the Coronavictimes association, which brings together victims and families of victims of the Coronavirus, recalled that the resumption of the epidemic coincided precisely with the reopening of shops and places of worship. “It is obvious that we should not reopen more places! “, he is indignant.

Lack of scientific evidence

If personalities like Jean-Michel Ribes (playwright, director and director of the Rond-Point theater) or Richard Patry (president of the National Federation of French cinemas) have recalled the rigor of their health protocol – which Charles Touboul said recognized – cultural actors have constantly pointed out the lack of scientific study on the risk presented by cultural places, in comparison with establishments which have now reopened their doors. To which government officials opposed unconvincing arguments, such as the reference, for example, to a cluster observed recently in a theater in Japan.

“No demonstration has been made and cannot be done. And all that says well, that basically, culture has been sacrificed ”, concluded lawyer William Bourdon, after a debate of almost three hours. Pending possible other scientific elements, the investigation will be closed Tuesday at noon, and the decision expected on the evening of Wednesday, December 23.

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