by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
What war zone?
Because if Saturday March 16 was a “war zone”, then France has been at war since 2010 – I didn’t see a single thing out of the norm for France.
A young woman who freaked out after getting tear gassed and lying on the ground quivering? Seen it. Me taking a breath which contained zero grams of oxygen and only tear gas – seen it. Cops hitting protesters, cops firing shock grenades at people, cops using water cannons – seen it, seen it, seen it.
Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the Wikipedia page for the 2016 labor code protests. Somehow there were twice as many trials (3,626) as arrests (1,800), even though one would have to be arrested before they can get tried, no? “More than 1,000 people hurt according to Amnesty National,” says Wikipedia, but read the fine print: that was in Paris alone. Obviously, there is mass amnesia – and mass bad/under reporting – regarding French state repression during the Age of Austerity.
So you should trust me when I say I didn’t see anything Saturday I haven’t seen hundreds of times since 2010. I thought it was a good day – I only got gassed thrice.
What was totally different was this: there was organized and determined civil disobedience from protesters.
Now that was a rare sight. The French, you see, don’t storm the American embassy and take hostages – they get beat up, arrested and lose politically, and try to make losing into a victory.
On Saturday, just like a couple weekends in December, the Yellow Vests won. Decisively.
Want proof? They got a reaction. That’s what victory looks like in the age of austerity – victory is: lawmakers not ignoring you anymore. That was exactly the goal of the Yellow Vests on Saturday – force recognition from the French government that democracy must include incorporating public opinion into public policy.
The reaction in December was minor concessions, including the so-called “National Debate”, which ended March 15. This is why March 16 was billed as “Ultimatum”. The reaction on March 18, however, is not concession but maximum repression.
It’s going to get bad now
France’s 1% gave a few tiny crumbs in December, but they are determined not to give any more.
Macron fired the Paris police chief and, astoundingly, the reason publicly given was that he did not use enough rubber bullets – I kid you not! He was firing for giving “inappropriate orders” which “reduced the usage” of so-called “flash balls”, which are most definitely plain-old rubber bullets. That should tell you all you need to know about the state repression which has obviously been ordered by Macron.
And it will be implemented by a new chief, one who “is considered a man ‘of steel’ who should ‘restore order where it is necessary,’” according to France’s top cop, the Interior Minister. This is the language of fascism, not democracy.
Demonstrations will be banned (including at the Champs-Élysées) cops are being openly given more license to attack and arrest, drones and a UV spray that marks the skin for 4 weeks, a new and more concentrated tear gas, penalties for protesting will increase. All of this is obviously designed to intimidate citizens from even attending protests.
“Birthplace of human rights” y’all.
(Whatever… give that back to the Indians.)
LOL, I’d point out what the response of Paris would be if the FLN party in Algeria or the Chavistas in Venezuela did any of this… but that is so, so old for me. It’s certainly news to some young people, but if I pointed that out all the time I’d be a broken record.
Revolution – real change for the 99% – means choosing sides
What’s far more interesting for readers is to check out journalism such as this interview I did on March 16 (thanks to the beauty of smartphone journalism) from the bank off the Champs-Élysées which was firebombed.
Cops hadn’t cordoned off the area, and I had full access to the gutted building. I imagine I was the only journalist in any language to note and decipher the only things not melted, and which had been clearly left behind on purpose: two stickers on the bank’s fancy engraved sign. One discussed police brutality and the 20+ people who have been blinded by rubber bullets just for protesting government policies, and the other talked about the amazing innovation of Apple Computers… in tax evasion.
It’s quite simple: The average Westerner, and even possibly the average reader of this article, views those who firebombed the bank (which caused no injuries) as being worse criminals – much worse, even – than cops who abuse their power and executives who steal untold billions from the public coffers.
Such a view is obviously considered anti-social by many, because it means siding with forces which are far, far more more detrimental to society than the bloodless loss of one bank. In some countries – China, Iran, etc. – the theft of billions leads to capital punishment due to this political rationale. In other countries, like America, capital punishment is used solely on the lower classes.
Disagree with that political rationale of China’s and Iran’s? Fine. But the reality is that this political view is never, ever broached in the Mainstream Media… even though it is heard in every café across France. In 1789, 1917, 1949 and 1979 there were honest political discussions in France, Russia, China and Iran – is France going to have honest political discussions in 2019?
In recent years France has preferred to – not just waste time but to – cause suffering and death via false, reactionary discourses (which are used to justify neo-imperialist wars). For several years France has preferred to defend the idea that it is politically justifiable to draw Prophet Mohammad bent over with his buttcheeks spread and a star for an anus, as Charlie Hebdo did. What’s worse, that Islamophobic, reactionary piece of intellectual trash will be paraded as hero for years and years.
France has no problem discussing rebelling against a government – and even sending arms to help – but only if that government is not Liberal Democratic/West European bourgeois.
But on March 16 what I saw was a temporary ascension of the humane, liberating idea that people are actually more important than property, which is a radical concept for the Liberal Democratic, jingoistic, resolutely anti-international French. The cover of Aujourd’hui en France on March 18 showed property burning on the Champs-Élysées alongside the caption “How to stop this?” It did not show that woman on the ground shaking, nor anyone blinded, killed or in a coma, nor a person sped through the justice system and stuck in prison – it cares for the rights of property. In a very anti-human fashion (or to hit them where they live, “In an anti-humanist fashion”), they merely asked: “How can we stop the injuries to the property of the richest?”
The bank firebombing – if it was reportedly correctly and objectively, as I sought to do – should force people to take sides; the Mainstream Media does not speak honestly about one of those sides. Protecting property, ignoring human suffering, insulting Muslims – these are the very real, pathetic priorities of a France, and of a West which is fundamentally anti-solidarity, pro-sectarian, pro-jingoist, pro-war and pro-economic inequality.
Governments take care of the 1%, or the victims
Ah, but that bank is just an innocent victim, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah… and cops spend more time chasing after financial crimes than 17-year old Colored men.
Just 5 meters from the bank I met what could be considered an innocent victim: A hunched over 60-something man, who quietly confided to me and my cameraman that it was his Porsche over there which had been totally incinerated.
I felt bad for the guy – mainly because he looked terrified that the small, crowing crowd was going to lynch him – but I think he’ll be all right: he drives a Porsche, after all. I asked him a question he will hear, aggravatingly, for the rest of his life: “Why did you drive your Porsche into this part of town today?” He explained he was there to see friends, and he saw lots of cops around, so….
The cops couldn’t protect your 1%er property, mon ami, because Yellow Vesters were being politically disobedient. It’s a rare occurrence, but today was one of those very rare days. Read a newspaper….
If he thought I was going to interview him and share his story sympathetically, he didn’t realize that I’m not there to protect his 1%er property. People who drive Porsches… defending them is not the job of real journalists, because they are already doing pretty well and can obviously pay for their own defense.
Now if they had torched my car – a car I bought entirely with 1 and 2-euro coins – that would be a different story, because it would have likely led to an improvement!
Calling it “a different story” is not at all hypocrisy – that is equality. This is exactly the political difference between moral absolutists – those Kantian types who would open the door to a murderer rather than lie about their victim not being at home – and people who don’t live for pure individualism. These politically Kantian types are those who saw civil disobedience on Saturday and screamed, “How dare they? Send in the tanks!”
I saw nonstop civil disobedience – or as you say, violence – on Saturday, but I did not see apolitical berserker rage, which is the resolute and false narrative of the Mainstream Media. Indeed, it is their job to not understand the narrative believed by those engaged in civil disobedience.
I saw mostly young people breaking open stores and older Yellow Vests bravely stepping in to stop looting – I have the video footage. Once it happened at a handbag shop right next door to the Iran Air store. “No! What did Iran do to France,” I shouted! But the Vesters know – fancy handbags have done far more damage to France than Iran ever has.
I saw political slogans – propaganda – which were absolutely intelligent and reflected a major concern with societal well-being… most of the time. Accusing Disney of “ruining children’s dreams”… sorry your Prince Charming didn’t arrive, lady graffiti artist, but it’s just a cartoon. I am listing an exception to the rule.
Others saw cops stealing football jerseys. LOL, classic. One thing is certain: definitely no political motive to dig out there….
Pacifism has gotten the French 99% nowhere since the very minor governmental concessions of December – this reality is not lost on protesters. Therefore, all the blame for the violence is on the government.
Look at who are you defending when you blame the protesters
Similarly, all the blame for the violence goes on the cops. At every single demonstration it’s the cops who set the tone.
From the moment I set foot on the Arc de Triomphe I was gassed. Protesters never even had a chance to show they wanted to be peaceful – cops had obviously gotten the order to respond to any provocation with full force. Cops get paid expressly to stand up to any Black Bloc provocateurs, and to arrest them… but they don’t arrest them.
In the interests of accuracy – my watchword – I can explain:
I was at the Arc de Triomphe an hour late, at 11:45 am, which is a rare tardiness. I had a good reason though: I had to do a live interview regarding France’s 2018 Islamophobia report. I asked him, and the director of France’s Islamophobia watchdog expressly denied any link between an increase in Islamophobic acts and the Yellow Vest movement, which has already been falsely accused of anti-Semitism. The director said there has been no increase in Islamophobic acts in the past four months. So… we cannot even try to tarnish the Vesters with the Islamophobic brush, and I’m glad I can pass this on to readers.
But that made me late, and apparently there was major violence I missed at 10:45. If you listen to the mainstream media it was all Black Bloc’s fault. However, if you were a journalist who was actually on the Champs-Élysées talking to people afterwards, you heard things like “The cops never do what they are supposed to do or arrest the people they are supposed to arrest, like Black Bloc.”
That seems surprising, but there is constant accusations that such alleged far-leftists are in league with the cops.
I have seen Black Bloc and Antifa many times, and they are quite often genuinely disliked, unwelcome, wayward souls… mainly because so many of those souls act so very incorrectly, detrimentally and bewilderingly that the masked figures cannot possibly be honest leftists, but instead police who have infiltrated the movement. So, instead of arresting Black Bloc, I was told the cops did what they usually do: let them go, pick on the weak and arrest the inexperienced. I’m reporting what I was told and know….
Bottom line: cops knew they were going to be provoked on the biggest protest day in months, and their response was not to quell disorder – which is what the Yellow Vests want – but to let it fester.
I can see why the Interior Minister would give such orders: Last Saturday night this father of two was filmed kissing another woman while drinking and dancing. He sent scores to jail that afternoon, and that night he is celebrating with a woman who is not his wife. They are calling for his resignation.
Where was Macron? Just as he has been on seemingly every other major day of planned protests – I’ve noted this time after time – he was not in Paris. Here he was – on the ski slopes.
An incredible decision, given that everyone knew March 16 was going to be the biggest demonstration in Paris since December.
Macron… that guy… he’s just too different from us.
It’s not his 24-years older wife, nor the Benalla scandal (and his “incomprehensible indulgence” of 27-year old Benalla – to quote the Senate report on the Benalla scandal), nor his statutory rapist wife’s chocolate money, nor his Rothschild banker money – Macron is simply not one of the People. He has clearly lived in isolation from the People his whole life. Nobody with an ounce of respect for the common man, the common Yellow Vester, would have gone skiing that day and even published photos of it! A king would have.
It’s not just bad politics or arrogance – it’s anti-social thinking for the job with the most societal responsibility.
Poor Mack the Knife had to cut short his vacation because of the civil disobedience. On March 18, trying to look as manly as possible, Macron angrily announced that he was giving cops more ammo and free reign.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as unfortunate as this is: Marine Le Pen would have been better, because she would not have gotten away with all this! But Macron’s victory allowed the West’s fake-leftists to remain smugly complacent.
Conservatives understand Vesters, but oppose and would crush them. Fake-leftists just hate Vesters and want them not to exist
March 16 was a huge day of protests: you had Algerians marching, a protest against state racism & police brutality, and the “march of the century” for climate change. All were supposed to converge at Élysée Palace, home of the (skiing) president – thus, “Acte 18: Ultimatum”.
I work near the Palace – tons and tons of cops were there, so that was never going to happen.
Know what else never happened? The 100,000 fake leftists peacefully marching for dirt and feeling sorriest about the feelings of rocks never joined the Vesters! They left them twisting in the tear gas-filled wind, because they prefer to live in their tiny world of bizarre fears and self-congratulation. Climate change activists are really just about the worst… take out everything human from politics and what are you left with? The environment. There are no more global problems, like class; the problem is the globe itself. The problem is not unequal consumption; it is “incorrect” consumption. Of course they don’t support the Yellow Vests – the Yellow Vests are against the status quo.
But you better believe the Algerians showed up! Of course they did – they have pride: there would have been no revolution in Iran without the inspiration of the Algerian War for Independence. And thank God they did show up, because they were the only ones with good music. French music is totally unexportable to non-Francophone countries, of course.
Who else didn’t show up Saturday? The mainstream media.
Surely I just missed some of them, but I realized later that I didn’t recall seeing any other journalists doing interviews or live interviews with their logo? RT was always there, but it was clear that reporters (not cameramen and photographers) largely stayed away from what was sure to be a rough day. Or, even worse, they actually preferred to cover climate change march #4,236.
Their absence can be proven by watching week’s media coverage in France: French media like the detested BFM were too scared to use their logo on top of their microphones. Contrarily I make sure to use the PressTV logo because, as I tell the occasional questioning Yellow Vester: “We’re Iranian media – you can’t possibly blame us for France’s problems!”
Somebody is getting blamed in France… but not those who are the actual problem.
Changing horses midstream – in this case the police chief – and openly demanding that cops be even more bloody shows just how desperate the Macron administration has been rendered by the Yellow Vests.
If the Yellow Vests revert back to pacifism, which means getting violently rousted by cops every Saturday sundown… I suppose that buys them time for this desperation to do more damage; maybe some cops will get so disgusted they finally change their ways and stop being part of the 1%, but that’s essentially hoping for a miraculous mass conversion: cops are not all secret Serpicos – it is most definitely the exact opposite.
If the Yellow Vests continue violent civil disobedience, that is the state’s fault: it is the only time the state has listened, so why shouldn’t the Yellow Vests do what works? They are suffering now, and have suffered since the Great Recession began.
Iranian media is not about to blame the protesters. Nor will we say, “They got what they deserved,” when France’s looming crackdown imprisons, maims and quite likely kills.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. His work has appeared in various journals, magazines and websites, as well as on radio and television. He can be reached on Facebook.