May 1st has therefore passed. And on this day nothing happened that isn’t worry for the authorities, which is entrenched more than ever and sure of this fact. Castaner and the prefecture have perfectly managed their act of force consisting of terrorising and attacking the entire event in order to avoid the slightest excess. France has now fallen into a doctrine of maintaining order through terror.
Never since the beginning of the movement of Yellow Vests, and perhaps even never for decades, have we had seen such an ultra-offensive strategy. On Wednesday, the police force even did not try to use as an excuse the demonstrators’ attacks to “retaliate”. Thousands of persons found themselves suffocated, stifled, caught up in crowd movements, bludgeoned… The terrible sight of old persons who panic, of children who cry. At times, we felt like we were witnessing war scenes. With people who took shelter in alleyways and waited for street medics.
What is the most unacceptable in this situation it is that it was provoked and wanted by the prefecture, while there was practically no “excesses”: a broken bank window and three garbage cans on fire? For 50,000 demonstrators on the streets of Paris. Clearly, today it is necessary to get used to the idea that the police force is not any more there to maintain “order”, but to help the authorities in its battle against social anger. It is in this logic that, several times during the day, the police ultra-violently charged and gassed the demo in order to cut it into several “sections”.
Two hours before the official beginning of the demo, the first charges and gassings took place. From 10:00, all zones in some kilometres of itinerary were plunged into an astounding and anxious atmosphere, with mobile patrols randomly picking up groups of demonstrators in order to search them in a hyper-aggressive manner. The slightest protection mask against the gas or swimming goggles were grabbed, as if they were military hardware. Some respirators are even enough to be taken into custody. The objective is clear: to dissuade as many people as possible from going to the demonstration, and to take as much protection against the tear gas away as possible. Hundreds of yellow vests were grabbed by the police and confiscated from the demonstrators. And again, not to maintain order, but to minimise the impact of the Yellow Vests on this May 1st demonstration. France 2019.
Once the demonstration started, they realised that the leading procession is not any more really the “leading” procession: the labour unions were completely drowned in the thousands of Yellow Vests, black K-Ways, and ordinary citizens who want to demonstrate and to fight on the street. At the front, of course, but also after the labour union procession, and even in the middle. If last year it was possible to speak about a leading procession that competed in terms of numbers with the union procession, then on May 1st 2019 they cannot.
This May 1st was clearly a defeat for social struggles. It confirmed that from now on, faced with an authoritarian and ultra-violent government, it is no longer possible to play the card of demonstrations that are sanctioned and concerted with the prefecture. Indeed, this demonstration on Wednesday was one of the most violent for the demonstrators, while it was one of those who experienced the least damage. The rhetoric of telling us that we have to do a sanctioned protest in order to gather as many angry citizens who are afraid of violence as possible no longer stands.
It will also be necessary to think about new modalities of actions and demonstrations, taking note of the new strategies of the police forces. We have the means and the strengths. Because the only victory of May 1st is that it was good to have seen so many people go down the streets of Paris and all the cities of France, despite the totalitarian climate and the threats of the authorities. Determined, happy people who will not let truncheons or gas stop them in their struggle.
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