Saturday, January 26th 2019. “Yellow vests” protests were being organized in the main cities of France. Mobilization was not weakening. Support from the population had decreased slightly but was still huge (60%-70%, according to polls). The main slogan has remained the same since November 17, 2018: “Macron must resign”. In December, another slogan was added: “Citizens’ initiative referendum”.
The government and French President Emmanuel Macron have been doing everything they can to crush the movement. They have tried insults, defamation and have said the demonstrators were both “seditious people” wishing to overthrow the institutions and fascist “brown shirts”. On December 31, Macron described them, as “hateful crowds”. The presence of some anti-Semites led a government spokesman (incorrectly) to describe the entire movement as “anti-Semitic”.
The Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, ordered the police to resort to a degree of violence not seen since the time of the Algerian war (1954-62). During the two last decades in France, other riots have taken place many times. In 2005, for instance, when the whole country was subjected to arson and riots for weeks, the number of wounded rioters remained low. But violence has consequences. In just the last few weeks, 1,700 protesters were wounded, some seriously. Nineteen lost an eye; four lost a hand. Although French police officers do not use lethal weapons, they do use rubber ball launchers and often fire at protesters’ faces — a target prohibited by the current rules of engagement. The French are also the only police force in Europe to use Sting-Ball grenades.