In recent days the hashtag #saccageparis (trashed or ruined Paris) went viral on Twitter as Parisians published photos of what they said is an increasingly dirty and ugly capital.
We’ll always have. Paris? Soc media user has uploaded images of encounters w mounds of garbage in public places alongside #SaccageParis or #TrashParis
Paris City Council officials blame a 10% reduction in the number of cleaners due to Covid. https://t.co/5SoWkuzbrP @newscomauHQ pic.twitter.com/0CBvOVqkya
— Melissa Hoyer (@melissahoyer) April 6, 2021
Bins overflowing with garbage, graffiti-covered buildings, rotting benches and crumbling pavements were photographed and shared on the social media platform to alert others that the City of Light has lost its shine.
— AD (@CapAdrien) April 4, 2021
In large part the social media movement blamed Socialist Party mayor Anne Hidalgo for the mess, claiming the state of the city had degraded since she came to power in 2014.
Latest hashtag campaign in Paris: #saccageparis and photos to show how filthy the city has become under socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo. I partially agree, the city needs a major clean-up initiative, but I’m also not naive, this is a partisan political attack to déstabilise Hidalgo. https://t.co/sxHoc8h2n6
— Matthew Fraser (@frasermatthew) April 4, 2021
The latest campaign might be politically motivated but the reality is Paris has struggled to clean itself up for years now, and the stench of pipi (pee) in the streets and the sight of litter strewn across streets is a long-established problem.
And it can’t all be blamed on the mayor.
Hidalgo has ramped up efforts to rid the French capital of its filthy image, increasing the city’s “civility police” from 96 to over 3,200 in 2017. (Over 5,000 people were fined for peeing in the street that year.)
She has often blamed Parisians themselves for the litter problem.
“It’s an educational problem, and I think we have to start all over again,” Hidalgo said in 2019. “Respect education, respect for others, respect for the environment, respect for the place where you live.”
Beyond the clear political angle & general need for more cleanliness, part of what #saccageparis seems to be pointing to is that a lot of the asymmetrical, modern 'wood aesthetic' benches etc in places like République looked great initially … but just didn't age well. pic.twitter.com/ldHP5Ff1cj
— Alexander Hurst (@iamhurst) April 5, 2021
But some of the furious inhabitants said it was the Socialist Party mayor’s efforts to make the capital more environmental-friendly by installing wooden benches and multiplying the number of bike lanes in the city that was taking its toll on the city’s image.
— FouDeParis (@foudeparis) April 2, 2021
The mayor’s office denounced #saccageparis as a “smear campaign” and said some of the pictures posted were dated or taken just before the city’s cleaners intervened.
READ ALSO: Why the stench of pee may never leave Paris
“Like all cities in France, Paris is faced with incivility and problems of regulating public space,” the City Hall said in a statement on Twitter.
It added that its cleaning teams were reduced by 10 percent due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said this was “unfortunately the lot of social media”, through creating “social bubbles”.
“What you see may seem like it represents reality, but it is often more complex than that,” he told French daily Le Parisien on Thursday.
Hidalgo is believed to be considering running for next year’s French presidential election.