December 07, 2018
Fears that French protests could escalate this weekend
There is a real sense of panic in Paris ahead of tomorrow's demonstrations with a high chance of violence. Parts of the gilets jaunes have become more radicalised, some even announcing their determination to force entry into the Élysée palace. Radicals and conspiracists feed on each other. The government went public saying it expects people coming into Paris to destroy and kill. This worst-case discourse hardly matches the bundle of half-baked measures the government put out to calm the storm; if anything, this fuels more anger rather than soothes it, writes Mediapart. There is a real sense of violent insurrection, as the president's entourage talks about a putsch while MEP talk of death treats to themselves and their families.
The police, understaffed after years of budget cuts, finds itself challenged to protect both the Paris districts and possible hotspots across the country. On the other hand they stand accused of heavy-handed tactics. Pictures of a strong clampdown on high school students by the police in Mantes La Jolie went viral on social media. No word from the government on the 80-year-old who died because of a teargas grenade fired into his apartment, or the three students hit by flashballs. Teachers and high school students are raising the alarm about abusive use of power. This all fuels the sense of public anger.
It is no longer about the diesel tax, not even about purchasing power. The main subject now is democracy itself. Fears of a quasi-civil war come up in the debates. Parties and seven trade unions denounced all forms of violence yesterday. Schools and businesses have been asked to call for calm in their organisations. Daniel Cohn-Bendit warns that the real winner of this insurrection is the right, not the left. Some right-wingers are calling for Pierre de Villiers, the former chief of staff of the armed forces, to replace Macron in the Élysée palace. He was ousted by Macron last year and has been in the news in recent weeks with a book about leadership.