Paris officials slam online campaign alleging city grime spree

·3-min read

Paris city chiefs have branded as politically motivated a viral campaign blaming mayor Anne Hidalgo for the capital's dirty streets.

Over the past week on social media #saccageparis (trashed Paris) has featured thousands of photos of overflowing garbage bins or litter on sidewalks and in other public places.

Many of the messages blamed Hidalgo for letting the city become excessively dirty.

However, the city’s official account condemned the drive as dishonest and highlighted the challenges of collecting waste.

“The City of Paris is the target of a smear campaign,” read a tweet from a thread from the official Paris account.

“Many of the photos are old or taken before clean-up crews arrived.

“Every day, city clean-up agents work to keep Paris beautiful and they do it well,” read the message, which said 2,500 workers were deployed to clean up the city every day but acknowledged that their numbers had been reduced by about 10 percent due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

The grime spree began on the anonymous account ParisPropre, which has retweeted scores of the images – many of them from other anonymous accounts featuring anti-Hidalgo slogans in their profiles – as well as articles in the media about the campaign.

“I did not think [the campaign] would become so big, but it’s not surprising,” read a tweet pinned to the top of the user’s feed on Tuesday. “The current disaster could not remain without a massive reaction. Thousands of us are saying ‘stop’. Behind the hashtag? Just ordinary inhabitants.”

Political opponents weigh in

The state of Paris's streets has regularly dogged the mandate of Hidalgo, who is often cited as a candidate in next year’s presidential elections.

Over the weekend, the Socialist mayor’s political opponents took up the sentiment in the viral campaign to attack her administration.

“It is time for Mrs Hidalgo and her allies to open their eyes to the decline of Paris,” said former justice minister Rachida Dati, who lost to Hidalgo in last year’s mayoral elections.

Members of Hidalgo’s administration, a partnership of left-wing parties including the Socialists and the Green Party EELV, said the campaign amounted to a political attack.

David Belliard, deputy mayor for the transformation of public space, told RFI he was shocked by the way in which elected officials had been using the campaign to denigrate the efforts of the workers in the sanitation department.

Raising taxes for litterbugs

Belliard's fellow deputy mayor, Emmanuel Grégoire, said more could be done to crack down on the litter bugs.

“Municipalities need to have more leeway to increase taxes in response to these incivilities,” Grégoire told RTL radio.

“Repression is not the only means at our disposal but it’s very effective for this kind of behaviour … we are also trying to improve the situation through education and re-organising public services.”

But he also dismissed the campaign as a political project and said it was intentionally exaggerating the scale of the issue.

“If, each day, you take a picture of the worst part of your everyday life, this is not the reality of your everyday life,” Grégoire said.

(with newswires)