Underground Paris party defies lockdown

About 300 partygoers turned up for the illegal rave party held in an abandoned train tunnel last Saturday.
About 300 partygoers turned up for the illegal rave party held in an abandoned train tunnel last Saturday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • On a darkened residential street in Paris, a gate left partly open signals the entrance to an abandoned train tunnel - and an illegal rave party for 300 people looking for an escape from France's Covid-19 lockdown.

"Close the door," whispers a doorman hidden in the shadows, ushering towards tracks lit only by reveller's phones. The €15 (S$24) tickets for the Saturday soiree, titled "I Want to Break Free", were sold to members of a private Facebook group and snapped up within hours.

But the address in the 13th arrondissement was kept secret until the last minute and the rules were strict: Arrive alone, or in groups of two or three maximum, between 8 and 9pm.

Pulsing techno music beckoned from a vast underground cavern some 20m high, festooned with lights and neon that framed the psychedelic images being projected on the walls. Dancers swarmed the dusty floor complete with a DJ stage and a bar.

"We decided to mount a resistance and issue this call to hide together and party because there's no longer any place for young people to be together," says the 27-year-old organiser, who declined to give his real name but asked to be called Alexandre.

"We know how to do this now. In less than two hours we can set up anywhere and have a very private party like this," he said.

If caught, Alexandre could be fined up to €15,000 on charges of reckless endangerment.

Seated on tracks that vibrated from the blaring speakers, Ivan, 23, and his girlfriend watched as people poured in, the majority without face masks.

"I just got my first job, a permanent contract, and I've been working a lot so I really needed to blow off some steam," he said. "The lockdown has knocked my life out of balance; I haven't left my apartment in a month - this party is necessary for my mental health."

The sentiment is apparently widespread, since French police have had to crack down on dozens of illegal parties since the partial lockdown was announced last month to combat a new surge in coronavirus cases.

Last Sunday, the police shut down a party at a private home in Joinville-Le-Pont, just west of Paris, and issued fines to around 15 people for flouting the lockdown, said a source close to the inquiry.

It came just a week after a huge gathering of nearly 400 people was held at the same address, leading to charges against the house's owner and a security guard at the event. But no officers showed up to shut down the Paris party, said a police source.

"Generally, we take action against secret parties when neighbours complain, about the noise especially," the source said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2020, with the headline 'Underground Paris party defies lockdown'. Subscribe