A first national gathering for the French gilets jaunes
BENOIT MARTIN Monday,
January 28, 2019 MORNING
In the first month alone of yellow vest
protests, 3,700 were convicted with 216 jailed — but despite repression,
the movement is growing. BENOIT MARTIN reports on the assembly of
assemblies — the ‘political wing’ of the protests
Protesters call for a general strike and a referendum on French EU
THE movement of the gilets jaunes in
France continues to grow despite President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to
“appease the situation” and his backing for the most drastic repression.
New regulations against protests have been
introduced. They punish demonstrators who fail to give advance notice of
their protests and make organisers responsible for any damages that may
Preventive arrests, confiscation of
protective masks against tear gas, and the beating and maiming of
demonstrators are routine.
The first month of protest (mid-November
to mid-December) showed an unprecedented 3,700 people convicted, 216 of
whom were jailed.
Weapons like flashballs and explosive
grenades, now routinely used by the police, have been criticised by
human rights organisations for their lethal powers.
Among the gilets jaunes, 10 people have
died, over 100 have been wounded and maimed, losing a limb or suffering
other mutilation, and several thousands have suffered less severe
As for Macron’s “Grand débat” (the big
debate), nicknamed the “Grand dégât” (the big mess) by his critics, it
is essentially a PR exercise conducted through a series of gatherings
with mayors in the run-up to the European elections in May.
When he announced his two-month
consultation, Macron made clear that the discussion would not reconsider
previous decisions on taxation and austerity.
The gilets jaunes’ demand to bring back
the tax on big fortunes was off limits.
On January 19 protests, named Act 10 — the
10th Saturday of demonstrations — showed no sign of the gilets jaunes
Instead, female gilets jaunes are now
organising their own marches on Sundays in dozens of smaller and bigger
towns, chiefly denouncing police violence.
A coming-together of women’s initiatives
is currently being discussed on Facebook pages set up by female gilets
Act 11 took place Saturday January 26,
along with other women’s marches and contingents during the weekend.
Simultaneously the first national
gathering of gilets jaunes took place in Commercy, a small town of 6,000
people in the north-east of France.
Last December, their local gilets jaunes
assembly called for the “creation of popular assemblies everywhere in
The national gathering, “assembly of
assemblies,” discussed demands, follow-up actions and internal
They object to the “increasing number of
gilets jaunes (or who claim to be) self-proclaiming themselves as
spokespeople or representatives or who are running as candidates to the
They proposed “a different model, a
democratic movement from the grassroots.” This perspective seems popular
as we were told by the organisers they struggled to accommodate all the
delegations in attendance.
The outcome of this gathering could be
defining for the future of the movement.
Benoit Martin is an activist with Payday, men working with the
Global Women’s Strike
CALL FROM THE FIRST ASSEMBLY OF ASSEMBLIES