PARIS — During the G-20 summit in Hamburg last week, Donald Trump certainly drew out the crowds.
What began as a theatrical anti-capitalist protest at the meeting of the world’s largest economies quickly devolved into violence, with thousands of angry, impassioned demonstrators torching cars, smashing store windows and blocking off roads.
Not so in the City of Light, where people seem to have greeted Trump with Gallic sighs and shrugs.
The American president remains deeply unpopular in France: according to one poll, only 14 percent of the French population holds him in high regard. But Trump’s arrival for France’s national holiday ultimately sparked little in the way of civil unrest or even mass demonstrations.
The Parisians, it seems, have other things to do.
Yes, there were a few pockets of anti-Trump fervor before the Bastille Day military parade, slated for Friday morning.
The symbolic Place de la République, for instance, the center of the candlelight vigil for the Charlie Hebdo massacre, was briefly converted into a so-called “No Trump Zone,” where several protesters fashioned and displayed piñatas in the shape of the American president.
“Mr. Trump, you are not welcome!” screamed a headline from La Gazette Debout, a newspaper linked to the anti-system “Nuit Debout” (Up All Night) protest that has remained in the square for more than a year.
Likewise, in Paris’s aptly named Place des États-Unis, a verdant square in the tony sixteenth arrondissement of the city, there was also a small anti-Trump demonstration, but this was largely a protest for Americans abroad against their own leader, not necessarily for French citizens against a perceived foreign adversary.
Led by Democrats Abroad, most of the signs on display highlighted American domestic issues — namely, the embattled Obamacare, and Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty. “Resist!” read one of the signs.
Although Paris was one of the cities that featured a major “Women’s March” following Trump’s inauguration in January, the city is relatively quiet for his first visit to France, otherwise occupied with celebrating France’s national holiday.
In this, the Parisians seemed to be taking a cue from 2003 — the so-called freedom fries era — when the U.S. decision to invade Iraq deeply alienated many in Western Europe and particularly in France. Then-president George W. Bush and his administration were deeply unpopular here, but he was hardly ever met with mass demonstrations.
There is also the example of their president, Emmanuel Macron.
At a press conference on Thursday in the gilded halls of the Elysée Palace, Macron acknowledged the differences between himself and Trump.
“We have a number of disagreements,” Macron said, before saying later that he refused to comment on American domestic politics.
“What a good answer that is,” Trump smiled.