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Report: Act 23 of Yellow Vests

Last updated on 28th July 2019

Act 23 of the Yellow Vests took place in France against the background of completely bizarre and frankly suspicious circumstances. In the evening of April 15th the famous Notre Dame cathedral suddenly caught fire less than an hour before Macron was due to announce his so-called “measures” as a result of the “grand debate”. Personally speaking, I don’t believe in such events magically happening at a time when the president’s back is seriously up against the wall, not to mention the disgusting I feel concerning the grotesque torrent of PR-driven donations from the filthy rich that followed.

There are now multiple videos showing French people conducting experiments with pieces of wood and fire – here is an example.

And lastly, here is just how “sad” Emmanuel Macron and Édouard Philippe were as they implemented their little PR stunt, visiting a burning Notre Dame.

The April 20th Yellow Vests protest was dubbed as an “ultimatum”. What does this mean? Simply put, it’s not logically possible to have a large protest turnout every single week, especially taking into account the fact that the Yellow Vest bloc itself is not uniform in the sense that it contains segments of all of society. I.e., there are more liberal protestors who want affairs to be completely “peaceful” and keel in horror at the sight of a burning car or rocks being thrown at the police, and there are some who, as they put it, don’t want to “march like obedient sheep” in a sanctioned rally. So a compromise was made, although indirectly, in order to maintain some unity: a string of sanctioned, “peaceful”, rallies followed by the occasional larger, more wild, protest. But of course, this strategy is doomed to a revision, since as the median level of the rage of the Yellow Vests vis-a-vis police brutality increases, the less satisfying a sanctioned rally becomes as a whole.

So, the provisional, non-sanctioned completely flexible, and deliberately vague plan for Act 23 was the following:

  1. Everyone gather at either of the following 3 points by 10am: Chatelet, Porte Saint-Denis, or Gare du Nord.
  2. Avoiding to be in groups (no greater than pairs) and being careful to not wear a Yellow Vest (yet), everyone should then proceed towards Madeleine (a 40-or-so minute walk westwards) for noon.
  3. From here, the aim is to storm the Champs Elysees.

In parallel to this there was a sanctioned plan – or rather a sanctioned rally – from Bercy to République. For some Yellow Vests this was very confusing, since the whole point of Act 23 was that it had to be an “ultimatum”, and a sanctioned “sheep march” hardly matches this description. But there was a logical reason for such a situation:

  • The social media posts of all prominent Yellow Vest figures (and of all large Yellow Vest Facebook groups) are being constantly monitored by the police. Two of such “leaders” have already been summoned for questioning by the police within the last 2 weeks. I.e., they were subjected to intimidation. And so this means that Macron would love to have an excuse to arrest them – participation in a non-sanctioned rally. Thus, a sanctioned route was, first and foremost, needed simply as protection.
  • Ever since protests on the Champs-Élysées were banned, the game has changed. It is clear that the main aim of the Yellow Vests now is to recapture this avenue. But as I found out during Act 23, this is very difficult. Firstly, the metro station on the avenue is now closed every Saturday. If the Yellow Vests publicly announced to go to the nearby stations (Auber, for example), the police will just set up traps (or close this station too) in advance. Also, it’s simply not possible to thrust thousands of Yellow Vests towards one station. Again, the police can solve this by just closing the station. So a sanctioned route allowed to give the Yellow Vests a safe passage into the city center at least without being subjected to aggressive stopping and searching or even detention.
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Well, the primary plan was quickly thwarted by the police because they encircled the three meeting points (the Yellow Vests who gathered at Gare du Nord were forced to leave the way they came – via the metro. Chatelet was also encircled, and anyone who was loitering around was told to move on by the police. The “Madeleine” metro station and the surrounding ones were closed. Anyone who dared to wear a Yellow Vest there was searched by the police.

So this essentially meant that all Yellow Vests had to join the sanctioned rally that was scheduled to depart from Bercy at 12:30. I arrived at 12:50, just in time to catch the column passing by the Ministry of Finance.

About 10 minutes after this moment the “peacefulness” of the march started to disappear and fires were appearing left, right, and center. As a result, the police started to fire tear gas and block off streets, anticipating deviations from the sanctioned route. At this moment I witnessed someone mockingly throw a plastic bottle at the police, which apparently warranted the firing of a flash ball in response. The standoff and constant back and forth with the police continued until the Yellow Vests reached the perimeter of Place de la République, where a line of riot police blocked the way. Tired of being impeded all the time, the column simply pushed the police aside and ran to the square.

What happened from this moment onwards can be seen in my Facebook media gallery below (click the blue Facebook button in the top right corner):

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On this day I experienced my first intimate encounter with a dispersal grenade. Of course, compared to the wounds received by many on the square, I got off lightly, but this does not justify the act of throwing a grenade at someone who clearly doesn’t pose a “threat to public order” whatsoever.

The tweet below captures what I saw on this day very nicely. I managed to leave the square before the water canons went to work, and then I witnessed more completely unnecessary police brutality – a crowd of Yellow Vests who want to also leave being smashed by truncheons.

(I am seen at 0:29 wondering what on earth is going on, as a man is brought in front of me bleeding from his head)


What is becoming more and more evident is that the Yellow Vests are heading towards a very ugly situation, where the police will push their powers to the maximum. Macron is using his PR machine to create a parallel reality in which some people voiced some discontent (which, of course, has nothing to do with his policies, but probably is the result of Russian interference) about something, so he launched a “grand debate”, lots of people took part in it, and he will listen to the people and make changes. Everyone lived happily ever after. I.e., the actual reality, and moreover – the actual existence of the Yellow Vests movement – is smothered by emotional blackmail campaigns (Notre Dame) and the systematic use of sleight of hand illusions (here is a “middle-class tax cut”, but the airports will be privatised whether you like it or not).

Some Yellow Vests are surprised by the government’s response. They perhaps thought that a few riots (or “peaceful” sanctioned marches) would defeat neoliberalism. Others have seen what happened in Libya, Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, Africa, etc, and have more of an idea about what Macron and the demonic machine of destruction he represents are all about.

Even though the Yellow Vests won’t openly confess it, the movement – with all its shades and colours – will go all in on May 1st (even if the labour unions won’t want to take part in any violence). This doesn’t mean that they will arrive with rifles and molotov cocktails, but that the shape of the Yellow Vests bloc, consisting of climate change liberals all the way up to anti-Zionist militants, will once again change, as it already did when the first eyes, legs, feet, hands, etc were mutilated. It was precisely at this moment that, in the minds of the Yellow Vests, an outcome involving serious bloodshed became something very possible, and not farfetched since “we protest peacefully”.

By the way, the chant “Commit suicide” (Suicidez-vous) heard on April 20th for the first time since the movement began back in November 2018 has sparked a controversy. Some Yellow Vests are saying that this shouldn’t be chanted because it encourages the act of suicide in general. Le Pen criticised it but in a clever way that didn’t criticise the Yellow Vests. It must be said that before “Suicidez-vous” could be heard, the Yellow Vests chanted “Ne pas se suicider, rejoignez-nous” (“don’t commit suicide, join us”), but 5 minutes later, due to some serious police brutality, the Yellow Vests transformed the chant through anger. The media will not mention this important fact.

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For those who are unaware, there is a big suicide problem among the police force. The latest case was on Thursday, when a high ranking officer in Montpellier blew his brains out. Why? Because the police is underfunded but forced to work like dogs. I had no problem with the chant because I perceived it as: if you want to continue to prop up this system, which exploits you and treats you like dogs, then we won’t have sympathy with you – continue to commit suicide, nobody will come to save you. It wasn’t actually telling them to off themselves on the spot. But the propagandist media is already intent on stripping the slogan of all its context and using it as a battering ram against the Yellow Vests.

I think in general this incident exposes the deep flaws of liberalism, when the unwillingness to choose a side of the barricade because of artificial self-righteousness (wanting to look like a “perfect” human being, so morally superior to everyone else, especially on Instagram, even though the concept of “perfection” itself is a logical fallacy, and no indignation follows when bombs are dropped on children using their tax money) results in what resembles Stockholm Syndrome. I.e., fear of severing the mental umbilical cord that connects the citizen to the state, although “consequences” only exist in the mind (you will be called racist/xenophobic/anti-semitic/extremist/etc and ostracised from the “perfect” club – aka society!).

Ollie Richardson



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