When I visited Paris last November, I already sold some of my headbands in two cities :
Compiègne and Amiens.
In Compiègne, I sold my stuff right next to a market.
I had nice chats with some people from the city and even got two apples for free. But after not even one hour sitting there, a hat seller called the police because he thought I´m stealing his business. The policeman explained in the worst english that this is illegal and I have to pack my stuff and leave NOW(“and never return” the market vendor added). I packed my stuff, but told him that I have to wait for someone who already payed and will come back in half an hour, sat down and ate my apple.
The policeman went really angry because I did not move NOW and called two more policemen. I had to give them my ID and they took all my personal details for the case they see me again. The hat man told them he will watch me and after that, they all left.
When the man picked up his prepaid headband, two old ladies asked me what happened and if I have some headbands left. So we went together into a tiny and dark street and I felt like selling them Crystal Meth…
When I was walking around the Eiffel Tower in Paris, I remembered that moment and was thinking about the illegal vendors there.
Selling things without a vendor permit is illegal.
Everyone knows that.
But what can you do when you are not legal in this country?
There is no way to work legal.
Who are those people selling all the small eiffel towers in Paris?
Where do they come from? How do they live ? How do they survive?
On the next day I wanted to find an answer for all those question.
I went there with my backpack and showed my stuff to three vendors , who were selling eiffel towers in a row. I asked them, If they would have any problems if I sell right next to them. They told me it is all fine, I just have to be careful.
The first thing they recommend me was to distribute my headbands on the carton, that I can fold it together in seconds and run away from the police.
After that, they showed me the basic warning signs, for example if the police comes by car/bike/horse/feet.
The police already came before I unpacked my stuff. 10 police man jumped out of nowhere and tried to catch some of the vendors. It looked like hunting. Human hunting. In some faces you even saw that they enjoy doing this. It was a really sad experience.
After about half an hour, my neighbors were back. They could not catch one of them. Black men are fast. And they are used to it, Abaskuul told me. 6, 7 sometimes even 15 times a day they have to run away from the police.
Abaskuul was born in Somalia. His parents fled with him to Spain when he was 16 years old. Nowadays, they have a legal passport and they are european citizens. When I met him in paris, he could speak five languages fluently : Somali, English, French, Spanish, German (and even the bavarian accent)But he never went to school. He can not even write. In the summertime, he sells sun glasses on the beach in Mallorca or in Ibiza; in the wintertime he flights to Paris to sell eiffel towers.He tried to get different jobs but after he failed many times,he resigned himself to sell things on the street.
Raul was a refugee from a country I do not remember. On the way to France, he did not even lost all his papers but both of his brothers as well. He is living together with Abaskuul and three other guys in a studio in the banlieus of Paris. If he gets caught by the police, it would be his end. They would take all his money, all his stuff and put him straight into the next airplane going “home”- in the country from which he has fled.
They sell five of the small eiffel towers for 1 €, the bigger ones for more. Abaskuul told me that they make something between 15 and 30€ a day (for 10 hours work).
I joined them the full day and they had to run away from the police 8 times. I changed my tactic after I´ve seen how fast the police can run. Every time my neighbors started to run, I packed my stuff fast but calmly and went straight into the direction of the police men. They all have a tunnel version and their attention narrows down to black, running guys with eifel towers in their hands…..and the hunt will never end.