‘Why we oppose locks like those on the bridge in Boston’

Love Lock Paris
Love Lock Paris

The Standard contacted Lisa Anselmo and Lisa Taylor Huff, the duo behind the No Love Locks campaign, to find out why they are opposed to the sort of locks that have appeared on the new St Botolph’s Bridge in Boston...

*What is the main reason for your opposition to the locks?

First, we want to make it clear that it’s not just us who are opposed to the practice of hanging “love locks” on historic sites; thousands of Parisians feel the same, and have been very vocal on our Facebook page, blog and petition— and based on the comments received on the Guardian article about us, the consternation has jumped the channel.

The main issue with the “love locks” practice is that it is a kind of confiscation of public space, and often perpetrated by tourists at the expense of the local residents—both culturally and fiscally.

It’s vandalism that defaces and damages historic structures, and the psychological impact of that on those who must watch this happening is something that needs to be talked about more in the media. For example, many Parisians have told us they feel, “suffocated,” “invaded,” “depressed” by this trend. And the impact on the environment is yet to be measured, as keys are tossed into the river as part of the practice.

It’s far from “green.” There are over 700,000 locks in Paris at last estimation, and that’s 700,000 keys in the Seine. Paris is a caution tale for other cities, and we can’t stress enough you need to get ahead of the problem now.

We started No Love Locks to help people understand that when it comes to love, we should be selfless in our intentions, and think about our impact on the world in a socially conscious way. The most ironic part of the “love locks” trend is that at its very core, it’s selfish: from the disrespectful act of vandalizing someone else’s property, to the idea that you can lock someone to you forever. Maybe that’s why the visual result of all these locks is so ugly to so many people.

*How did it begin?

Not sure if you are talking about the trend or our cause. We will address both.

Regarding the trend, there are several stories swirling around, but your guess is as good as ours regarding the definitive source of the trend. I offer this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_locks The locks started to appear in Paris around 2008, but have increased 10 fold in the last two years.

As to how No Love Locks began, it happened by accident, in a way.

It started when one of us became disgusted by how ugly the bridges had become from the “love locks”—inundated with heavy, rusting locks and graffiti—and was moved to write about it on her blog.

That post went viral—over 3000 views in 2 days. It became evident that we were not alone in our feelings; others were fed up with the locks, too. So one day we set up the blog and a Facebook page…and the rest is history.

Suddenly, we were activists. People have responded in force, most all are supportive of our movement. Currently we have over 6000 signatures on our petition. For the latest count, visit: tinyurl.com/nll-petition-fr

*Do you feel the same for all bridges or might the locks be ok in certain circumstances?

Unless a structure is uniquely designed for this purpose, the trend will continue to impact local residents in a negative way because in its current incarnation it imposes itself on public spaces, confiscates the space for its own sake. And the weight of the locks can become an issue, too. It is far too damaging and feels like vandalism to too many people.

You must draw a hard line if you really care about preservation.

The trend has such a stranglehold on many cities, that the ban against the practice must be sweeping and apply to all public spaces, or it will be of no use. Again, Paris is a caution tale for other cities. Nearly every bridge is covered in locks and even the Eiffel Tower is being affected.

If a place can be designated and engineered uniquely for this purpose, then this trend could exist without impacting the heritage of cities.

It’s not the locks on their own that is a problem, it is where they are affixed: on mostly historic site.

*Do you not accept, as some state, that they are a nice ‘romantic’ gesture?

We understand that to some a lock is a romantic symbol of everlasting love. But the practice itself is not loving at all, given the destructive side effects and disregard for local heritage. But to many, especially Parisians, a lock is a barbaric symbol for love, because love should be free to thrive.

Agnès C. Poirier talked about this concept in her op-ed in the New York Times (“An Affront to Love, French-Style,” 18 August 2012). We agree with her, and when you see what the locks trend is doing to Paris, the burden it places on public spaces and on the hearts of people who have to live with the ongoing defacement of cherished historic sites, it doesn’t feel like love at all. “Love” does no absolve vandalism.

That’s why our tagline is “Free Your Love. Save Our Bridges.”

Want to find out more? Here’s some links on the campaign...

The site: http://nolovelocks.com

The blog: http://nolovelocks.com/blog/

The petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/the-mayor-of-paris-and-the-city-council-of-paris-ban-love-locks-in-paris-now-save-our-historic-sites-2

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/NoLoveLocks

The article that started the project (which received 3000 views): http://myparttimeparislife.com/2014/01/21/dear-tourists-please-unlock-your-love/