In the early afternoon of October 13th, I found myself walking determinately through the streets of Paris to the central meeting point of an international asbestos demonstration that would cross the inner city of Paris and end at the impressive Opera building. “There’ll be hundreds and hundreds of people there”, the organisers had informed me. They were wrong: there were thousands of them. Literally. Six thousand, all of them braving the wet and windy weather, queuing up with their banners, boards and photographs of loved lost ones, along the length of several streets, waiting patiently for the signal to begin walking. What a sight! ~ Yvonne Waterman, Sc.D. LL.M., GBAN Charter Member, The Netherlands
There was an energetic and determined atmosphere in the air. Many of these people had come a long way – some had even crossed oceans – for a sincere purpose: to count, to be counted and to hold accountable; and they weren’t going to be put off by some silly rain. That was plain for all to see. The international aspect of the global fight against asbestos was also evident: there were some thirty different flag carriers, ranging from France, the United States of America and Belgium to Brazil, Germany, Canada, Italy, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Spain, the Netherlands, South Africa, etc. There were flags I didn’t even recognize. I was astonished by the multitude of French asbestos victims’ organisations. On many banners, demands were made for social justice and criminal prosecution for asbestos crimes. Clearly, the message of the Turin trial had been widely received.
Over the course of the afternoon, the long column slowly began wind down through the beautiful city centre. I joined Linda Reinstein, Dick Lemen and his son Tyler in upholding the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) banner, which, I am pleased to say, was close to the front of the entire demonstration. Many internationally familiar faces were present as well, amongst which Fernanda Gianassi (Brazil), Laurie Kazan-Allen (UK), Canadian MP Pat Martin, Sugio Furuya (Japan), Gerhard Albrecht (Germany), Enzo Merler and Bruno Pesce (Italy), Guadelupe Aguilar (Mexico), etc.
Rounding up on the square in front of the huge Opera, rousing speeches were held by all national representatives. This was surely one demonstration that will not soon be forgotten!
Yvonne Waterman, Sc.D. LL.M., GBAN Charter Member, The Netherlands