What is going on in Paris – and, by extension, France?
Why are there riots in the streets? Why is the Arc de Triomphe defaced? Why does the Avenue des Champs-Élysées look like a fire-bomb war was just fought there?
Here is a concise, informative explanation, excerpted from Richard Lough and Geert De Clercq’s article for reuters.com:
Workmen cleared away burned hulks of cars, scrubbed the defaced Arc de Triomphe monument and replaced the shattered windows of luxury boutiques in Paris on Sunday after the worst riots in the center of the capital in half a century.
Several thousand riot police were overwhelmed on Saturday as they fought running battles with protesters in the shadows of some of Paris’ fabled landmarks and through its fanciest shopping districts. More than 400 people were arrested and more than 100 injured, shocking Parisians and tourists alike.
At the base of the 19th-century Arc de Triomphe, police kept the public back as cleanup crews set about erasing graffiti, much of it targeting President Emmanuel Macron and some exuding anarchist sentiment such as, “Overthrow the bourgeoisie!”
Authorities were caught off-guard by the escalation in violence after two weeks of nationwide unrest against fuel taxes and high living costs, known as the “yellow vest” movement after the fluorescent jackets worn by the protesters.
“We’re already afraid of what’s going to happen next week. The violence is escalating at an exponential rate,” said Claude, a well-heeled woman who lives next to the Belle Armee brasserie that was set ablaze. “The state is losing control. They cannot let this happen. Maybe the army should intervene.”
Parisians and tourists surveyed the aftermath, capturing the moment on smartphones as the capital digested the chaos that now poses a serious challenge to Macron’s presidency.
“Macron has a problem on his hands. Everyone’s fed up. He’s got to listen more,” said Amaya Fuster, eyeing graffiti daubed on a Printemps department store window that read: “There’s enough money in the coffers of businessmen. Share the riches!”
In France’s last election, voters had the hobson’s choice of a far-rightist with a xenophobic streak, or a young pretty-boy darling of the media, then just 40 years of age, who said what the people wanted to hear, regardless of whether he had the capability to follow through on any of it.
Well, they got their young pretty-boy. And now?
I wonder how long Emmanuel Macron will last. If things continue in the current direction, I don’t see how it can be very much longer.
And who will replace him? Will the French people suddenly discover that his predecessor, Francois Hollande – whose poll numbers had dropped below 20% – wasn’t so bad after all and beg him to return? Will they rethink the far-right Marine Le Pen (of whom, the best thing I can say is that she’s marginally less offensive than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen)? Is there someone else in the wings (let us hope)?
Keep watching. By this time next year, I strongly suspect we’ll have our answer.