Toulouse: Despite the Leap in Repression, the Yellow Vests Defied Macron’s Anti-Protest Law

A short distance away from the announcements of Macron following his “grand debate”, Act 22 had as its main theme the defence of the right to protest, which is being more and more challenged by the recently implemented “anti-breaker” law. In Toulouse, the repression took a leap aimed in particular at enforcing the prohibitions to demonstrate within the city center. The response of the Yellow Vests was clear: a slight rebound for Act 22. In Toulouse, Yellow Vests took over the city center despite the jump in the repression to enforce the famous “anti-breaker” law.

Even the Ministry of the Interior, every week mocked for its “counting of protesters” in a way that produces the smallest approximate figure, had to emphasise it. Act 22 Yellow Vests marked a slight rebound in mobilisation this Saturday, April 13th, just days after the restitution of grievances of the “grand debate” and while the controversial “anti-breaker” law was promulgated. To denounce this new freedom-killing law, thousands of protesters along with Yellow Vest processions demonstrated everywhere in France.

For this new act, Toulouse had been designated as the “capital” of the mobilisation, with a national call to protest in the pink city. From the beginning of the demonstration, the forces of repression set the tone. Giant encirclements at Jean-Jaurès Alley, clouds of tear gas, grenades, and loads of Anti-Crime Brigade officers marked the beginning of ceaseless repression, to a level never reached since the beginning of the mobilisation. The twofold objectives were clear: Prevent all the crystallisation of the mass procession, by “emptying” the streets from the beginning of the demonstration at first, then excluding the Yellow Vests from the city center. In other words, marking everyone’s minds after the promulgation of the “anti-breaker” law by Macron on April 11th. In this sense, several of the 37 arrests, were for the “voluntary concealment of one’s face”. The day prior, in Nantes, 14 Yellow Vests were placed in custody for having made a banner workshop the day before Act 22.

But the least we could do is make the program more than complicated for Macron. Not only did the Yellow Vests, without being able to maintain a single procession, succeed in marching in several large processions, composed of thousands of protesters, but they also held the city center area all afternoon and the beginning of the evening. A huge determination, despite Dantean repression, which shows that the jump in the repression illustrated in Toulouse to enforce the “anti-breaker” law failed to dampen the determination of the demonstrators to defend their right to protest, including in the city center. While the overall maintenance of the order has not been called into question, several times in Toulouse the police forces were put in difficulty by the Yellow Vests, despite the repressive leap, including massive gassing.

Government caught off guard. Macron cornered

The other lesson of Act 22 is that the government remains particularly nervous about the upcoming announcements after the “grand debate”. It is certain that with the end of the “grand debate”, the pressure is maximal so that the president of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, does not hesitate to accentuate this one on the executive by affirming that there will not be a second chance. In the same way, the implementation of the “anti-breaker” law is supposed to give a free hand for an irreproachable maintenance of order and becomes additional pressure, and this while the Yellow Vests remain always so determined to protest despite intimidation.

In this context, Macron appears, after this Act 22, under significant pressure, thus playing with the future of what remains of his five years of governance. Not only did tens of thousands of demonstrators “brave his authority” and provide the best response to the President’s headlong rush, but it is also the feedback from the “grand debate” that fuelled Macron’s isolation. If we will have to look at the medium term before drawing conclusions, what seems like a rout for Macron in recent times is able to fuel anxiety, within the ruling classes, about his ability to revitalise the end of his five years. Act 23 of the Yellow Vests, dubbed “ultimatum” and which will bring the movement into its fifth month of protests, will be in this sense a new source of concern for Macron, his government, and the ruling classes. All the more so if the “deceptive” risk of his great debate was premonitory.

Julian Vadis, Revolution Permanente

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