By Le Saker Francophone for The Saker blog
The balance of power between the Gilets Jaunes (Gj) and the government/media couple is becoming tenser, while remaining, for the moment, in a kind of status quo where neither side wants to give in. The last three weeks have therefore been punctuated by Saturday demonstrations, government repression and media attacks, without anything really moving on. Here are the main news of those last 3 weeks:
The Weekly Acts of the Gj:
Demonstrations are still taking place throughout France and police repression is still very strong, well documented in social media but totally denied by the government and the main stream media. On their side they try to denounce the Gj violence but they have few videos to show it then they have to manipulate the facts to make the population believe that the Gj are violent or that their number is declining.
Act 15 ((February 23rd). According to a new report by the Ministry of the Interior “at 7pm, 46,600 yellow vests demonstrated in France on Saturday, while the union Policiers en colère spoke of 200,000 at 3.30pm”.
Act 16 (March 2). The war of the figures keep on. In total, the Ministry of the Interior counted 39,300 demonstrators in France, including 4,000 in Paris. The Facebook page “Le Nombre jaune”, which counts the number of demonstrators, announces 92,053 people at 6 pm throughout France. But for the Minister of the Interior: “I call for responsibility. Every week 40,000, 50,000 people demonstrate. That’s about as much as the spectators of an “Olympique de Marseille” football match, which means not so much people.”
Act 17 (March 9). According to information provided by the Ministry of the Interior, the mobilization reached a historic low, with 28,600 demonstrators in France, including 3,000 in Paris. These figures are, as usual, subject to controversy and the “France Police-Police officers in anger” union assures that 160,000 demonstrators were mobilized at 15:45. With still the same level of police violence.
Act 18 (March 16). While the Ministry of the Interior counted 32,300 participants during act 18 of the Yellow Vests, the “France Police-Police in Anger” union talks of 290,000 demonstrators throughout France at 7:30 pm. In Paris, the police arrested 230 people, writes Reuters, referring to the report of the police prefecture, announced at 19:30. According to the agency, 106 people were taken into police custody.
Few to add about it apart that it doesn’t calm down. Here are some video proofs gleaned from social networks:
When a policeman is filmed targeting a group and stops when he sees that he is being filmed.
A woman is insulted by a policeman in a hood.
Police officers still attacking journalists
More police violence, this time against elderly people
As a result, some GJs respond to the violence by using so-called Cacatov (from the word Molotov) shit bombs.
Even an opposition member of the Parliament was bludgeoned. Main stream journalists will reproach him for having been in the middle of the demonstrations without realizing that a part of the job of deputy, a representative of the people, is to be among his electors, especially when they need him as a witness.
Act 18 has been plagued by still more violence. Looting this time. A bank burned down. A luxury restaurant too, but it seems that it was the grenades thrown by the CRS that started the fire. Major damage on the Champs Elysées.
But wouldn’t this renewed violence be wanted by the government because, according to a CRS union, “We had 12 CRS companies that have been confined and compartmentalized to sanctuarize the Elysée palace (Macron’s office and residence) and we have let the damage to occur in the Champs Elysées. ». The Gj wonder too. As a result, the Prime Minister’s Office is obliged to recognize “some malfunctions”.
Because mixing up the hooligans and the Gj is a recurrent tactic used by both the media and the government to discredit the movement in the eyes of the population who prefer to stay at home while supporting the movement. For example, according to the government spokesman, the Gj’s sole objective is “to break, loot, steal, burn, attack, not to say kill, public order officials”. That is a complete lie.
And a mix up well maintained by the police themselves as shown in this photo:
The level of police violence has reached such a high level that the UN is beginning to condemn it and urges France to calm things down. Another independent body is also on the same tone. Even the Financial Times, which was full of praise for Macron when he was elected. Of course, this enrage mainstream French journalists. As for Macron, he will answer with a lapidary: “I will not leave the police without any means of ensuring public order or defending themselves against people who come with weapons and with the worst intentions.” Lies, once again, because no Gj has yet been caught with a weapon on him, let alone using it against the police. Another kind of lie is when he brazenly denies police violence.
Amnesty France considers the “anti-hooligans law” to be a danger to French democracy. That said, this law, applicable for act 18, did not prevent the hooligans from looting, on the contrary they ransack even more. As a reminder, this law sentences of one year’s imprisonment, a fine of 15,000 euros, a ban on demonstrations and, finally, registration in the national register of persons banned from demonstrating. This penalty may apply to any demonstrator who is simply suspected of hooliganism during a demonstration.
This violence they are subjecting the Gjs to turns against the police since this is the 19th police officer committing suicide since January 1, 2019. Suicides partly due to fatigue, the 1300 years of accumulated and unpaid overtime. Even with the police, the government is not keeping its promises: “Castaner promised 33 million to the police and gendarmes. We are waiting. That’s enough with the announcement effects,” says Aurélie Laroussie”. The government even forces them to do illegal acts.
Les Gilets Jaunes
A group called “Yellow vests special operations” launched its first action by inviting itself into a Starbuck, asking for an appointment with the director to ask him to pay his taxes in France, because the company does not pay any taxes there while the local cafés pay a lot. It is therefore unfair competition for the benefit of a foreign company, with the blessing of the state. After a broken promise of negotiations, they plan to invade more Starbucks, in all the major cities of France, to keep on the pressure.
That will be done during act 18: “Special Operation Starbucks: the return! More than 200 Yellow Vests have invaded the Avenue de l’Opéra lounge so that the multinational can explain its tax optimization (0€ of taxes). We therefore asked to be received by Pascal Laborde, Regional Director, who had promised to raise our “grievances” during the occupation of the Starbucks on the Champs-Elysées. The answer was clear: they refuse to sell us (we wanted to have coffee), they kicked us out, they closed the shop and they categorically refused to receive a delegation of Yellow Vests. The war between Starbucks and the Yellow Vests is declared! Let’s prepare for a Major National Operation with planned occupations all over the country…. »
Other more symbolic initiatives are taking place, such as the one that consists of taking down the photo of the president hung on the walls of all the town halls in France. Even symbolic, “since February 21, 13 walls of the town hall have been left empty, the militants having faced “intimidation, 3 police custody, 5 searches”. Or when athletes start jogging on Sundays in yellow vests
More politically, a Flash mob was held in Roissy to protest against the ongoing privatization of the major Paris airport.
Another group began to calculate exactly the amount of tax evaporation, with evidence to support it. A first estimate is around 480 billion euros per year. The equivalent of the government’s budget. While the government is closing school and hospitals because it claims it has no money left.
Etienne Chouard keeps on promoting the Citizens’ Initiative Referendum throughout France.
The young lawyer Francois Boulo, keeps on defending, with talent, the Gj’s cause to the media who are willing to let him speak.
It seems that a still informal network of Gj is taking a whole bunch of political initiatives, at the local level to start, and try to take over the political reins in their hands. It will certainly take time, until the new generation arrives, to see the effects at the country level. But the seeds, and the hope that goes with it, are sown thanks to the Gj movement.
The latest initiative launched to change the situation, some Gjs are requesting a meeting with Macron. Will it be granted? Not likely because it is clear that he prefers to repress rather than to hear.
The reactions of the Government/media couple
The French intelligence agency is overwhelmed by the yellow vests phenomenon. Previous governments had made them focus on terrorism, so they lost links with the traditional French social fabric. They are blind with the Yellow vest phenomena.
They also contradict Macron. “The French President had mentioned “the contribution of a foreign power”, in particular Russia, which, “through Russia Today or Sputnik, emerges in his speech”. According to the Mediapart newspaper, these “very surprising remarks” contradict the information provided by the French intelligence services during the same period. It may therefore be an attempt to “mask the fact that there is a problem in the country”. Mediapart points out that the DGSI [the FBI equivalent, NdT] concluded that the “ultra-right scene” was “almost non-existent in the demonstrations”. The intelligence services also indicated that the “ultra-left” was also “involved to a limited extent in a movement perceived as populist and reactionary”. Regarding Mr Macron’s accusations against Moscow, the media claims to have recently gathered evidence that “DGSI and DGSE have still not found any trace of Russian interference”. Mediapart even evokes the “astonishment” of a high-ranking French intelligence official when he discovered Emmanuel Macron’s words. What statistics did the President rely on when he referred to these thousands of “ultras militants” and this alleged Russian interference? Solicited on March 7 by Mediapart, the Elysée palace did not respond…”
Growls in the justice system because of the pressure from the executive side. The judges’ union denounces a violation of “the fundamental principles of an investigation”. The instructions given in January by the Paris Public Prosecutor, Rémy Heitz, appointed by Macron, to the members of the public prosecutor’s office concerning the Yellow Vests, were to favor the lifting of police custody on Saturday evening or Sunday morning only, even if the case is closed without further action, and to register the persons held in police custody in the criminal records processing (TAJ) file. “It is an infringement of personal freedom to keep people in custody even if they will not be prosecuted, and to keep them deprived of their liberty for several hours, or even the following night, for pure law enforcement purposes. We’re on a hijacking of the object of custody. Similarly, when you ask for a record on people who you know are not guilty of a serious offence,” Vincent Charmoillaux, national secretary of the Syndicat de la magistrature, told France info.
All the tricks being good, even the most crude, the government claims to have defended the Gj against…a terrorist attack. Looks like another lie.
Once again, the government’s spokesperson is making a fool of himself. When asked about a book written by Francois Ruffin, one of the few MPs who dares to publicly affirm his support for the Gj, he replied: “This book exudes hatred all over the pages” and then ends the interview with “I don’t intend to buy this book and even less read it”. We remember that he had already said the same kind of crap about the Senate committee’s report on the Benalla affair.
As for the Minister of the Interior, he is no more up to the task since he is being interviewed behind the wheel of a car, driving without a belt, whereas French laws require the wearing of a belt and prohibit the use of a microphone for mobile phone while driving. If he wanted to remind the French, who know it only too well, that the government feels above the law, he has done well.
As for the media, the rare times they invite Yellow vests or personalities to defend them, it is to break them publicly. One example among others where the presenter says to the Gj guest who complains that he is constantly being cut off: “No, you are not the only one, you have as much speaking time as the others and if, frankly, that does not suit you, the door is here”. So the Gj just came out.
Anyway, the Gj may lose the battle of the plutocratic media but they are winning the battle of the social media.
And here we are, on March 19, 2019, the day after Act 18, the Prime Minister announced: “We will ban the demonstrations of the Yellow Vests in the most affected districts, the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Place Pey-Berland in Bordeaux and Place du Capitole in Toulouse”, announced the Prime Minister, promising to proceed “to the immediate dispersion of all the gatherings”. This shows that the government is determined not to make any concessions, not to listen and even less to dialogue with the Gj. The Prefect of Police has been replaced, the forces in Paris will be placed under unified command, new methods will be used, including drones, weapons and videos, according to the Prime Minister. In short, total war has been declared. So, will the Gjs surrender or will it only strengthen their resolve? I’ll bet on the later.
Well, we have the answer on March 20 when, in response to the Prime Minister’s threats saying” I wish not only that there would be criminal proceedings, but they would also have to pay for the damage”, one of the leaders of the movement replied” It is also clear that citizens would have no reason to take to the streets if your policy were designed for people, not for finance. All this breakage and outburst of anger could have been largely avoided” and the other leader “I wish for everyone that this government would be quickly stopped and that the destruction of our country by elites sold to capital and shareholders would stop as soon as possible. I won’t give up anything.”
The political situation in France
7 deputies of the party that supports Macron, LREM, left the party because, according to one of them, “The majority of my colleagues have a relationship with Emmanuel Macron as a guru. They are bewitched and have lost all critical thinking about what the president says and does”. Another complains that “Within LREM, it was difficult to decipher and criticize a law, it was necessarily good because it came from the government […] We observe a lack of consideration of deputies and the legislative power, and therefore a failure to respect our institutions”. Another, excluded from the group for voting against a law proposed by Macron, states that “It was always the heads of the group who told us what to vote for.”
On the eve of the elections of the European Parliament, a truncated parliament whose role is more consultative than legislative, a survey shows us that 72% of French people are not satisfied with the functioning of the European Union.
One of the reasons for this dissatisfaction is shown by this news: “While Coca-Cola has been appointed to sponsor the EU Presidency by Bucharest from 1 January, the consumer NGO Foodwatch considers that “in doing so, the soda giant places itself at the heart of the power, the European institutions”. She has launched a petition to end this partnership.” The fight against junk food is likely to get more complicated for Europeans.
Another reason for this dissatisfaction is clearly shown in this piece of the newspaper Le Figaro, which shows that the demands of the Gj are impossible to put in place as long as France remains in Europe. “For Coralie Delaume, if the claims of the Yellow Vests are legitimate, their application cannot be made without calling into question the functioning of the European Union. As the treaties stand, Member States can no longer pursue sovereign economic and trade policies,” she explains.
So, to make all these grievances forgotten, and on the eve of European elections where his party is in a bad position, Macron proposes his project for Europe. A hollow project that has been welcomed with disdain by Germany and other European countries. It is not only French that has lost their respect for Macron, the other Europeans too.
Then, to satisfy the wealthy who made him president, Macron continued to strip the country’s heritage. The privatization of Paris Airport has been secretly voted “on the night of March 15-16” by the 45 MPs present, on 577 MPs. “During the debates, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and Adrien Quatennens had, between the lines, suspected the government of favoritism against a “investment banker who joined En marche !”. [Bernard Mourad, support of Emmanuel Macron in 2017]” notes the daily.” A group of Gj met a group of deputies opposed to this privatization. Or they demonstrated in front of the national assembly against this privatization made to the nose and beard of the French people, in the midst of a popular revolt.
And then, on March 15, it was the end and closing of the great debate. For the moment nothing has come out of it because the “great debate” has turned out to just be a “great monologue”. Moreover, since the Gj do not believe in Macron’s “great debate”, they organized their own and here is the result. No less than 128 proposed political decision-making proposals, concerning the renewal of democratic institutions, the economy and purchasing power, ecology, transport, education, immigration… The result of this work clearly shows that the Gj do a much better and more effective political job than the government.
Le Saker Francophone.