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In Paris, the Yellow Vests Demand “Justice for Steve”

Five days after the identification of the body of Steve Maia Caniço, hundreds of “Yellow Vests” demonstrated in Paris, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Perpignan, signing a renewed mobilisation.

Paris, Montpellier, Toulouse, Perpignan … While thousands of demonstrators gathered in Nantes, tributes to Steve Maia Caniço were held in several cities, this Saturday, August 3rd, on the occasion of the 38th week of mobilisation of the “Yellow Vests,” signalling renewed mobilisation.

In Paris, the scale of the mobilisation was all the more surprising given that the capital is deserted at this time of year. Despite the summer holidays, several hundred people hit the streets to ask the government for explanations, five days after the identification of the body of the 24-year-old Nantes resident and the concomitant communication of a report of the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN) excluding any link between his death and the intervention of law enforcement.

Starting from Place de Clichy, a dense crowd, composed of “Yellow Vests” but also people outside of the movement, joined Place de la République in the middle of the afternoon. The demonstration was not marred by incidents. All along the way, the procession was escorted by a large deployment of CRS and mobile gendarmes.

At the end of the demonstration, when some protesters tried to block some of the traffic around Place de la République, a company of mobile gendarmes repulsed them smoothly.

“Everyone hates the police!” repeated protesters at regular intervals. But even more than the police, the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner was targeted by the procession with shots of “Castaner, assassin!” and “Castaner – drowner, and blinder!”.

The simple mention of the name of the minister is now enough to provoke rejection. Castaner? “Resignation!” replied, in a quasi-Pavlovian reflex, all the demonstrators in response.

Lydia, 55, a worker in an NGO and Yellow Vest since the beginning, is one of the many critics of the first cop in France [Castaner – ed]. His management of the Steve case “is an insult to all the people in this country”, she said. Lydia had planned to demonstrate on Saturday, and the discovery of Steve’s body only strengthened her choice, outraged by “the death of this young but also the way the death is treated by the government”.

Around her, several protesters waved signs in tribute to Zineb Redouane, who died in December during a “Yellow Vests” demonstration in Marseille, but also to Adama Traoré, who died in July 2016 in the premises of the Gendarmerie of Persan (Val d’Oise). “Unfortunately, because they are so numerous, police violence is a subject that has inflated the movement since the beginning. This question creates adhesion, it becomes a cement, a national cement beyond even yellow vests,” she thinks.

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Three other regulars at Saturday mobilisations share the same impression. Flo, Max, and François, Parisians aged 28, 29, and 38, met in favour of this social movement. They became friends, and confronted police violence together. “The use of violence has spread to society as a whole,” says Max. “Before, police violence was mainly in the suburbs, we did not have the information and we did not necessarily identify with it. Then there were the blinded and mutilated in the Yellow Vests, with all the videos, and now, with Steve, it becomes a cultural demonstration”.

For his friend Flo, “Steve’s death is ultimately speeding up the process”. “They have become so comfortable with us that they now allow themselves to charge at young people who are partying,” says Max.

“A festival of Music, in addition! It is a symbol”, say “Michou” and Antoine, 31 and 32 years old. They do not have a vest on their backs. Only beers in their hands. They say they are “sympathisers” of the movement, but have joined this Saturday “for Steve”.

“A party that goes on beyond the fixed schedule, it can happen. It does not justify a police charge,” worries Antoine, who has already participated in evenings at the scene of the tragedy, along the Loire.

The two people in their 30’s attend free parties. They themselves have already organised “several parties” when they were students. “For 20 years, relations with the police had become quite calm. When there is a sound system, the gendarmes are present, they do pre-checks for drugs, they do preventative actions, it goes well,” says Antoine, dismayed that an order to charge a crowd could be given in Nantes.

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“Michou” is “distressed” by the “denial of the government” vis-a-vis the conditions of police intervention during the evening in Nantes. In its report, the IGPN went so far as to write that there was no charge, despite the evidence challenging this narrative. “In its communication, the government thinks that it is in the 1980s,” says Antoine. “But now there are videos, social networks, and alternative media”.


Mediapart, Antton Rouget

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