This photo could turn out to be one of the most important images of our time. Taken during the Euro 2016 final outside the Stade de France in Paris, it shows a nationalist spectacle on a giant screen blinding people to what is happening on the streets. Police, gendarmes, and paramilitary – operating as servants of the ruling class, working against ordinary people – keep protestors at bay with teargas and water cannon.
We have entered the third month of ongoing protests as the French rise up in their millions against a ruling class determined to take away their rights. They are protesting against undemocratically imposed anti-worker laws that are designed to enrich and protect a wealthy elite at the expense of ordinary people.
There is anarchy on the streets of France, and the mainstream media continues to collude with the establishment to cover up the scale of events and suppress the Nuit debout (“At Night on our Feet”) movement.
Violence on the fringe of massive street marches has coalesced with other anti-establishment acts, with government spokesman Stephane Le Foll acknowledging 30 government buildings had been attacked in recent weeks, including one sprayed with gunfire.
Violence during three months of street protests has resulted in almost 2,000 arrests and left hundreds of riot police hurt in running battles with groups of protestors, many of them chanting anti-establishment slogans.
The police tried to garner sympathy away from protesters when they claimed they were too “exhausted” to deal with the non-stop protests. French leaders threatened a ban on protests – with even tougher crackdowns by police – after Prime Minister Manual Valls claimed that the protesters were planning “to kill a police officer.”
The threatened ban by the French government on demonstrations was reverted on June 22 after a widespread backlash criticising the government’s authoritarian plans.
France’s police watchdog is now dealing with 48 judicial inquiries into police brutality during three months of civil unrest and strikes against the government’s anti-worker laws.
One police officer is facing criminal prosecution after being filmed punching a restrained high school student on the sideline of a school demonstration in March. The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said he was shocked by the case.
Another investigation has been launched after leaked footage showed a masked, plain clothes officer beating pupils into submission at the same demonstration. A further investigation is under way after a student protester in Rennes lost an eye when riot police opened fire with “flash-ball” weapons to control the crowd of students.
Following the Paris street demonstration on 26 May, a 28-year-old has come out of a coma and is recovering in hospital. Investigators are looking at whether his severe head injuries were the result of a police grenade.
France’s government, overriding the voice of the protesters and conscientious objectors in its own ranks, invoked ‘special powers’ to impose labor legislation by decree that will take away basic rights from employees, while benefiting their employers.
President Hollande and Prime Minister Manual Valls insist they will not listen to the millions of protesters or the massive majority of citizens who disapprove of the law.
However as the government, police and mainstream media continue to suppress this important movement’s progress, the people continue to rise up.
In a months-long stand-off, neither side wants to cave in and lose face over a reform plan that opinion polls say is opposed by more than two in three French voters.
Polls also show that voters are getting tired of the protests and want a deal. But Jean-Claude Mailly, leader of the Force Ouvriere union, said it could continue for many more months.
“We’ve made proposals, counter-proposals, but the government has not budged,” he told reporters. “If the government keeps being stubborn – though I hope it won’t – we’ll see during the summer and also at the start of the school year (in September).”
President Francois Hollande’s government hopes the labor reform will cut stubbornly high unemployment. But less than a year from elections, the decision to ram through the deeply unpopular reform without parliamentary support is a political gamble for the unpopular Hollande and his government, with the country seething and millions of people demanding political revolution.
Since the French protests began the elite have continually attempted to hinder their cause and silence the protestors. Every measure to dismiss the protesters has been attempted, from police brutality to the Prime Minister Valls portraying protestors as “rioters” and “ultra-violent youths.” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had the audacity to tell protesters “to find within themselves a little humanity, tolerance and respect.”
Humanity, tolerance, and respect – that is exactly what the people are asking of their government. The people are rising up, demanding the abolishment of authoritarian laws designed to enrich the elite at the expense of ordinary people. They are asking for elected officials to be held accountable, and democracy to live up to its promise.