by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
The demonstration for “Acte 16”, on March 2nd, was designed as a sight-seeing tour which passed by bastions of rich, traitorous criminals (the OECD, a school of luxury marketing, etc.) and so it concluded at a small roundabout in a ritzy area, Denfert-Rochereau.
As protesters amassed and cops loaded up, and with time in between my on-air interviews for PressTV, I headed for a florist shop. I needed some poles to train my sagging office plant, George W. Bouchra, named after a former boss who departed ignominiously (she was never employed by PressTV nor my boss – it’s a shared office).
As I began talking to the female shopkeeper, who seemed to be deciding whether or not to lock up and flee, a member of France’s riot police barged in and interrupted our conversation. He was thirsty. I can see why – French riot cops wear more armour than an American football player, and carry more attacking equipment than Batman. With his huge size thus rendered even huger, he quite intimidated the petite young florist.
The florist, of course, expected to pass her day among delicate flowers. She probably had no idea the Yellow Vest demonstration was designed to combust literally at her doorstep.
My hand to God, he asked her for bottled water not once, but 6 to 9 times. Was he convinced that florists also sell bottled water? More likely is: because he was a cop he knew that all he had to do was apply pressure to this lady/citizen, and she would hand over her own bottled water. Of course, because he was a French cop, he also knew that there would be zero repercussions if what he was doing was not forthright.
The intimidated young lady kept insisting she had no bottled water to give, and the cop finally gave up. When she turned to back to me I asked, “And do you have anything for me to eat?”
With the same look of fear still in her eyes, she answered quite earnestly, “No, I don’t. I’m sorry.” She honestly believed me, poor lady! It was only after I smiled and pressed her again, in the manner of the cop, that she finally relaxed back to her former self. She gave me the plant poles for free.
What this story relates is just how elitist Western cops are in 2019. Truly, only 1% of society feels they can act so above-the-law and so humiliatingly disrespectful to others.
“The 1%” can be only economic, but not necessarily. The slogan of the US Occupy Movement was, “We are the 99%.” Whether we say that, “Cops are part of the 1%”, or, “Cops aren’t part of the 99%”, the effect is the same – and it’s time to start saying it openly.
Everybody, in every Western country, hates the police
Here’s something never reported in any Mainstream Media: at any French demonstration where riot cops are deployed one will hear the chant, “Everybody hates the cops” (Tout… le monde… déteste la police!).
Now because the Yellow Vests are totally composed of White Power, anti-Semitic fascists such a chant would never be heard, right? The Yellow Vests – because they are a class-ignorant, intolerant, Islamophobia-focused movement calling for Joan of Arc’s exhumed skeleton to replace Emmanuel Macron as president – obviously love the cops. That’s also why leftist-rightish French intellectuals like Alain Soral are convinced that the cops are secretly wearing Yellow Vests under their blue uniforms, and are breathlessly waiting for the moment when France’s cops do what is never, ever done in any political revolution – join the protesters. Cops never switch sides – they have too much to lose.
Oh wait – the Yellow Vests were chanting it as well! The reason for that is, well, everybody hates the cops in France. They hate them with same force as they hate the 1% because cops are part of the 1%.
Let’s look at history: the rude demands for provisions and quarter (if not bottled water) was always made by soldiers and cops in ancient times. The banning of quartering soldiers – i.e., theft and parasitism – is the 3rd amendment in the US Bill of Rights for good reason. From the point of view of citizens: the idea that the Praetorian Guard, or anyone with a sword and a license to stab, was not part of the 1% could only be made by an absurd dogmatist.
Let’s look at 2019: go to any blue-collar community in the US and talk to women – they view cops and firemen as the biggest catches. Why? Because they have everything a conservative woman could want: social status, guaranteed jobs, early retirement and great pensions.
Social status: For those who have not lived in a small town – and I have lived in multiple and reported from them, as well – cops absolutely are social stars. Everybody knows who they are and the power they have; everybody kisses up to them, because they fear them and their power.
Guaranteed jobs: Ah, but our boys in blue are such heroes for working such dangerous jobs, right? Wrong. It’s not even in the top 10 of most dangerous professions – being a baseball umpire is almost as deadly. And check that list of the top 25 – cops are among the highest-paid on the list (median salary: $59,680).
It is almost unheard of for French policemen to go to jail, and certainly not if they commit a crime against a Muslim or Black person. In French law the testimony of a cop is always valid and cannot be questioned, only disproved via evidence. This is why so many innocent protesters are going to prison – because the cops say so.
Early retirement and great pensions: Indeed, the only time I have seen a French protest lead to immediate capitulation by the government is when cops marched – reforms were promised that very day. Politicians know how vital Praetorian Guards are. The usual method for cop pensions in the US is retirement after just 20 years with half your pay… that’s not just spectacular for those in small towns – who wouldn’t want that?
Add all these things up: Cops are not part of the 99%.
Yellow Vests throwing excrement on cops via ‘poo bombs’ – it’s the ultimate form of rejection
As someone who sides with non-dog cultures, I find it tremendously degrading for a person to fill a plastic bag (or a “projectile”) with excrement, but getting hit by it – wow. That’s disrespect on an almost unthinkable level. (I assume it was dog excrement, LOL!)
“The policemen were deeply humiliated,” reads the report. Well, turnabout is fair play, no? That’s what cops do to regular citizens day in and day out; that’s what the cop did to the florist.
Yellow Vests are doing what their American cousins in New Orleans did during the US Civil War – they are dumping their chamber pots on the heads of an army they have no connection with and whom they despise.
Westerners should, but do not, make a clear distinction between police and the army. Soldiers deserve infinitely more respect than cops, who in capitalist-imperialist societies are drawn from the most reactionary parts of the population. Cops in the West are not at all like the Revolutionary Guards in Cuba or Iran – Western cops violently guard against any progressive revolution, and their citizens all know that but can do nothing about it.
Nor can they stop the appalling deification of police in Western societies since 9/11. Despite all the bullets in the backs of minorities, all the secret torture sites and all the smartphone videos of shootings, cops are culturally, legally and fiscally untouchable because they ARE part of the 1%. The Western Mainstream Media defies cops, and Western mainstream politicians protect their salaries and pensions while cutting those of other public servants, because they are all in it together against the 99%.
Westerners know that I could go on and on with examples of glorification of cops which have become so extreme as to become disgustingly servile. The treatment of cops in capitalist-imperialist societies is, just like most Western problems, so ingrained that it can only be labelled as “total socio-political dysfunction”, and could only be remedied by something like a Chinese or Iranian Cultural Revolution. And that is what the Yellow Vests are essentially calling for.
Until that occurs, I will continue to report honestly: mass arrests, mass trials and mass jailings are an everyday part of French life now.
More blunt language, which is rarely heard in the Mainstream Media: Every Saturday the numbers of people hurt and arrested simply for protesting governmental policies rises by the scores or the hundreds.
Numbers: 8,000+ arrested, 500 major injuries, 2,000+ imprisoned (as of Feb. 14), 1,500+ awaiting trials (Feb. 14), 12 deaths, 20+ blindings, 6 hands lost, 10,000+ rubber bullets fired. If Venezuela reaches 1% of these figures the UN will authorise military intervention.
Rather than make concessions, change policy, or reflect the popular will, the government is using legal repression on top of physical repression to scare people from joining the Yellow Vests – every day newspapers big and small have stories of sentenced Yellow Vesters.
What’s sad is that the majority of those arrested are first-time protesters – they simply didn’t know how to deal with cops, how to avoid cops, and how to demand their rights from bullying cops. It’s not the longtime activists who are in prison, but truly the most innocent and the most desperate. Normally in France a sentence of less than 2 years leads to no prison time – a “suspended sentence” – but not for Yellow Vesters.
France is not a modern democratic nation but a “rubber bullet republic” led by a “liberal strongman”; it’s not new – Yellow Vests are experiencing what Muslims did during the 2-year State of Emergency.
I have only barely discussed the appalling violence, arrests, mass trails and and mass imprisonment of France’s Yellow Vests – these are inflicted by the very cops who Western media repeatedly insist are the greatest heroes of the nation. But only a reactionary believes that – everyone hates the police; only a reactionary hates the Yellow Vests.
The media is to blame: rubber bullets are euphemistically called “flash balls”. They are fired from “defense ball launchers”, which automatically makes protesters the aggressors. Injuries to cops are treated as being equivalent to the injuries of protesters, even though I have never read of a blinded cop, a cop in a coma, a cop killed, 200+ cops with serious head injuries – surely the media would have relayed such stories on a loop. Of course, the protesters are rampaging berserkers, who commit violence with no rhyme or reason, with demands “so varied” that it’s not even worth examining them, and who are not the victims of 8 years of austerity but the “losers” of neoliberal globalisation who lost in a 100% fair fight. Every poll is dissected in a way to show that the Yellow Vests are actually dwindling in popularity, and not that they actually (still) have unprecedented popularity for a protest movement in France. Every defense of the Yellow Vests must begin with a condemnation of “their” violence. Etc.
Act 16 was the tamest one yet… in Paris, that is. Rubber bullets, water cannons, tear gas, mass arrests were still used in the smaller cities more accessible to rural inhabitants. The florist had no cause for alarm that day – except from the riot police.
An article like this will be gleefully put in front of me by border cops the next time I fly into the United States, perhaps. Such an article is not just career suicide for a Mainstream journalist, but it would never get past any editor. However, it’s not like Western cops ever needed justification for their acts of intimidation, humiliation and violence. And maybe the 1% will get me before then – either via a rich person’s decree or their heavily-armed proxies.
This was an article about the horrific police and judicial violence against the Yellow Vests, but it barely touched on it – France’s problems run much deeper than just the past 3+ months.
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.