The insanity of Macron supporting the “uprising” in Venezuela while sanctioning vicious reprisals against his own people at home is glaringly obvious to all but Macron and his backers.
A 30-year-old volunteer fireman who joined the Gilets Jaunes protests in Bordeaux, France on the 12th January 2019, is in a coma after being shot in the back of the head by an LBD or “flashball” bullet fired by French security forces who are brutally suppressing public demonstrations in most major French cities. Olivier Beziade is a father of three who now has a “very serious brain injury” and is in an induced coma. As violence radiates across France, western media locks down and fails to report comprehensively or fairly on police infractions against protestors.
The following is the video of this event, during which one of the police officers appears to say “they (protestors) don’t know it’s us” and instructs his colleagues to “pick up the casings” after Beziade had been gunned down and was lying face down on the street.
The Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests
The Gilets Jaunes (GJs) or Yellow Vest movement began officially on the 17th November 2018 but according to some analysts this people’s initiative was being ignited long before and is a product of successive French government marginalization of important sectors of the French population. Thomas Flichy de Neuville, academic and historian, wrote very recently about the socio-political alarm bells that preceded the Gilets Jaunes by at least five years.
In 2013, a deputy from the Pyrenees Atlantique department of France, Jean Lassalle, spent 8 months walking around France. He covered 5000 km on foot and spoke with the “forgotten” French people. Lassalle reported that the lasting impression from his experience was that most of those he encountered had a desire to “turn the tables, that they had had enough on many levels”.
Lassalle’s report was submitted to the presidents of the assemblies in April 2014. Lassalle warned that nine out of ten people in France were ready to “explode”, three out of ten were ready to mobilize if and when the “explosion” took place. Lassalle prophesied that “Les réseaux sociaux sont prêts à agir comme une arme formidable de mobilisation” “social media is ready to to act as a formidable weapon of mobilisation”.
According to Flichy, the one problem with Lassalle’s ground-breaking report was that he predicted the imminent eruption of dissent “it is ten minutes before midnight”, Lassalle wrote. Nothing transpired as predicted in 2015 and the 196-page report was consigned to the archives, its prescient contents forgotten as France buried itself in a foreign intervention quagmire in Syria, Yemen and Mali and ignored the gathering storm at home.
In 2014, Christophe Guilluy, a geographer, wrote a book entitled “La France Peripherique” which investigated the demographics of major French cities and highlighted the problems of wealthy, opulent city centers compared to the marginalised and poor suburbs where 60% of the “forgotten” population resided. Guilluy concluded that many of these communities would ultimately vote for more right wing or nationalist political parties in search of an antidote for their deteriorating living conditions.
Guilluy’s work is particularly relevant when we consider that the match to the touchpaper for the GJs was the hike in fuel prices by President Macron’s government. While this is not the sole reason for the unrest we see today, nationwide in France, it is an important factor for 60% of a population, many of whom subsist on the minimum wage (SMIC) – if those people travel 20km to work every day, they will spend 250 euros per month which is a quarter of the SMIC. It is easy to see why these people reacted so forcefully against a fuel tax that would impact them the most.
Why the Gilet Jaune ? Analyst and author, based in France, Diana Johnstone put it most succinctly in an article for Unz Review:
Every automobile in France is supposed to be equipped with a yellow vest. This is so that in case of accident or breakdown on a highway, the driver can put it on to ensure visibility and avoid getting run over. [..] The costume was at hand and didn’t have to be provided by Soros for some more or less manufactured “color revolution”. The symbolism was fitting: in case of socio-economic emergency, show that you don’t want to be run over.”
The GJs have distanced themselves from politics and politicians to protect their grass-roots identity. The leadership structure is horizontal, no leaders or identity politics. The spokespeople are not practiced public speakers, they are people from every walk of life and they represent a wide spectrum of French society. The manifesto is varied depending upon regional collectives but most demands nationwide appear to be in synch with minor differences.
One such manifesto was published by a number of media outlets in December 2018 and it listed a number of demands for reform in the economic, political, health and social security and environmental sectors. This manifesto also addressed the issue of Macron’s neoliberal foreign policy and included a call to end “France’s participation in foreign wars of aggression and exit from NATO” and to “cease pillaging and interfering – politically and militarily – in Francafrique which keeps Africa poor. Immediately repatriate all French soldiers. Establish relations with African states on an equal peer-to-peer basis”
The fundamental message of the GJs is that they simply can’t make ends meet. The cost of living keeps going up and salaries keep being squeezed. The Government needs to listen to its people and to change course. Most europeans reading this will feel empathy with this expression of desperation. There has been a cover-up in France by the government and the media. These calls for help have been muted, filtered and ignored by the state-aligned media and government officials for some time now.
Macron’s government has used Climate Change and global warming as a damoclean sword brandished over the heads of the malcontent to distract them from their misery – suggesting the future of the planet outweighs the trivia of feeding your children or avoiding homelessness – the push back from the GJs was swift, while they may cherish their environment and are ecologically aware “they are more worried about the end of the month than the future of the world”
In some cases, early on in the protests, the GJs are being systematically dehumanized. Gerard Darminin, the budget minister, described the GJs as the “peste brune – the brown plague” meaning fascists. In the dozens of interviews I have listened to, not one GJ has expressed a sentiment that could even remotely be described as right wing or fascist. The GJs are an apolitical collective with a focus on socio-economic issues that directly affect their ability to survive in modern France which, in their view, is drifting dangerously away from the vision of a Republic that most of the demonstrators have grown up with.
The government response has been largely dismissive, repressive, condemnatory and increasingly inflammatory. Instead of “maintaining order” through genuine negotiation and reform, Macron appears to have unleashed an escalation of police violence against demonstrators which will provoke the GJs further, increasing dissent and the potential for counter-reactionary measures against the state.
Interior Ministry, State and Media Reaction to Gilets Jaunes
Macron’s first choice Interior Minister was the socialist mayor of Lyons, Gerard Collomb who resigned his post in October 2018, despite Macron’s entreaties for him to stay, citing “immense difficulties” facing his successor. Collomb was replaced by Christophe Castaner as head of national police forces, among other responsibilities. Former socialist and with a degree in criminology, Castaner’s reputation is somewhat tarnished by his connections to a Marseilles mafioso, Christian Oraison, in the 1970s.
French Prime Minister, Edouard Phillippe introduced a new law to “better protect the right to demonstrate” in January 2019. Protestors who are labelled falsely as “agitators” “insurrectionists” or who demand that “President Macron resign” will effectively be collectively reprimanded by a law that introduces measures of heavy punishment of demonstration organisers whose time and place has not been given the official stamp of approval.
500 complaints against Castaner for restricing the right to protest were submitted to the Court of Cassation but were dismissed by Public Prosecutor, Francois Molins, who stated that he would not be prosecuting Castaner for his remarks that “participants in the GJ protests were complicit with those who had resorted to violence”.
Castaner has consistently defended the police squads and their use of disproportionate force against unarmed demonstrators by claiming that the GJs are the ones to instigate violence, the police are acting in self-defense. The mounting number of cases of civilian mutilation and wounding by heavily armed police officers suggest that Castaner is distorting the truth.
Castaner’s only concession has been to equip the police forces with body cameras so they can record their own violations of the use of “proportionate force” in the maintenance of law and order. Doubts must be cast on the willingness of a police force already facing 100s if not thousands of claims against them, to provide the evidence that will further incriminate them. When Castaner was pressed to comment on the violence being meted out against civilians by the police, he responded:
I don’t know of one policeman or one gendarme who has attacked the Gilets Jaunes, on the other hand, I know many police or gendarmes who have taken defensive measures to defend the Republic, the order of the Republic – you know there is no “liberty” without public order [..] but naturally I have never seen a gendarme or a police officer attack a demonstrator or a journalist, on the contrary I have seen demonstrators systematically attack our security forces and journalists. “
Castaner is one of the chief promoters of the draconian and controversial “Loi Anti Casseurs – Anti-Breakers (looters) law”. Those who oppose adoption of the law have claimed it will further erode freedom of speech and liberty of expression in France. The law proposes security perimeters around protests, facial recognition, bag searches, body searches, 2-4 years in prison if found guilty of violence against the police and up to Euros 7,500 ($ 8580) fines for those who violate the law. It is worth noting that Castaner himself admits that the number of “casseurs” nationwide are negligible, numbering between “150 – 200/300 across all regions of France”.
— Stéphanie Roy (@Steph_Roy_) January 12, 2019
The law states that protestors who hide their faces will be targeted – this measure is controversial as most protestors and journalists are forced to cover their heads and faces to protect themselves against tear gas and the risk of mutiliation by “flashball” rubber bullets or “grenades d’encerclement”” which contain 25g of TNT and can release hundreds of 10g rubber pellets at close range if used incorrectly, by the security forces. Macron’s government sees these measures as essential to crack down on violence against the state, the GJs will perceive it as a further instrument of oppression by the state against its own people. So far, 200 ammendments have been made to the law by those who are alarmed by the increased totalitarian measures being imposed upon France and its people by Macron’s ministers.
French state-aligned media and UK corporate media have followed Castaner’s narrative lead with little deviation, the following short clip from a report by France’s TF1 demonstrates the disinformation being presented about the GJs and the police violence. The TF1 presenter denies any police infractions and praises them for their “sang froid”, their composure: