Today’s Yellow Vest protesting in Paris produced violence on a scale not seen since the early days of the movement. AP reports:
French yellow vest protesters set life-threatening fires, smashed up luxury stores in Paris and clashed with police Saturday in the 18th straight weekend of demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron. Large plumes of smoke rose above the rioting on Paris’ landmark Champs-Elysees avenue, and a mother and her child were just barely saved from a building blaze.
Cobblestones flew in the air and smoke from fires set by protesters mingled with clouds of tear gas sprayed by police, as tensions continued for hours along the Champs-Elysees. By dusk, as the demonstrators had dispersed, the famed avenue was a blackened expanse.
Once again, French authorities were caught flat-footed:
Police appeared to be caught off guard by the speed and severity of Saturday’s unrest. French riot police tried to contain the demonstrators with repeated volleys of tear gas and water cannon, with limited success.
To be fair, Yellow Vests protests seemed to be fizzling out recently. But today, 8,000-10,000 protesters participated, coming from all over the country and even from elsewhere in Europe. How could authorities not have gotten wind that something threatening was afoot? How could they have been unprepared for a significant amount of violence?
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, a crony of President Macron with no obvious qualifications for France’s “top cop” job, estimated that casseurs (or “breakers”) made up 15-20 percent of the protesters. The casseurs come from both the far left and the far right, but at root they are just thugs.
Some protesters who did not participate in the violence expressed approval of those who did. Said one:
I’m glad there are the thugs, because without them our movement wouldn’t get any attention. We need the violence so we can be heard.
A German factory worker who traveled to Paris to show solidarity with yellow vest protesters said he agreed with the destruction inasmuch as banks are “the biggest problem in the world.”
Eric Drouet, a key figure in the Yellow Vest movement, said that today’s march will be his last. “We’ve proved that marching wasn’t functioning,” he explained in a video, adding that he would continue the fight in other ways.
I think the government needs to counter the thugs in other, harsher ways.