France’s Yellow Vest movement began as a grassroots protest movement with legitimate grievances, especially one over a government tax on fuel. For quite some time, though, the movement has been dominated by assorted thugs, including political extremists and anarchists, who get high on smashing windows and damaging property.
On Wednesday, May Day, the thugs once again took to the street, and not peaceably. In one incident, demonstrators entered the Pitie Salpetriere University Hospital. About 50 of them forced open a locked metal gate at the rear of the hospital and entered the grounds. Some ran up a stairway and tried to enter the intensive care department. Medical staff blocked the door.
Demonstrators claimed they were just trying to escape from the tear gas the police force had used to disperse them. Maybe. But I doubt that anyone needed to burst into the intensive care unit to avoid tear gas. Moreover, if the protesters hadn’t thrown chunks of pavement at the police, they wouldn’t have had to worry about tear gas and the hospital wouldn’t have had to worry about an invasion.
When it was all over, Christophe Castaner, the French Interior Minister, said that protesters had “attacked” the hospital. The protesters called this “fake news,” saying that there was no attack, just an attempt to escape from tear gas. They demanded that Castaner resign.
Castaner is a crony of President Macron. Before the Yellow Vest street protests began, I wrote that he is not qualified to be in charge of French internal security. His failure to come to grips with the violent protests has confirmed my view.
However, the controversy over Castaner’s characterization of events at the hospital seems overblown. “Attack” or not, the protesters had no business disrupting a hospital. And they have been attacking shops and setting fires for months. If Castaner hurt their feelings, that’s tough. They deserve no sympathy.
Castaner, while insisting that the demonstrators are generating fake controversy, has backed off from the word “attack.” He now describes what happened at the hospital as an “intrusion,” which it certainly was.
Can everybody go home now?