As we discussed over the weekend, the protests (well… riots, actually) in Paris aren’t over yet. Despite having many of their demands met when French President Emmanuel Macron caved to the increasing public pressure, the yellow vest squads are still out in the streets calling for his resignation. It seems that the French government has had enough of this unrest and is preparing new legislation aimed at tossing the unhappy peasants into the dungeon if they don’t go home and shut up. It’s really sort of an homage to the France of a couple centuries ago. (BBC)
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has announced plans to punish people who hold unsanctioned protests after seven weeks of anti-government unrest.
His government wants to draft new legislation that will ban troublemakers from protests and clamp down on the wearing of masks at demonstrations.
He said 80,000 members of the security forces would be deployed for the next expected wave of protests. Protesters smashed down the gates to a government office this weekend.
In other chaotic scenes in Paris, demonstrators fought riot police, and cars and motorbikes were burnt.
Details of the new penalties and how the crackdown would be executed were a bit sparse, but the Prime Minister did offer some general guidelines. Everyone will need to submit requests to hold a protest and obtain approval from the government. (This seems a bit more onerous than the usual permit system used in the United States.) Because some of the protesters/rioters have been showing up with yellow bandanas covering their faces or, in some cases, Guy Fawkes masks, the wearing of anything covering the face will also be outlawed. The usual penalties for destruction of property remain in place.
In addition to possible jail time, Phillippe said that those engaging in arson or other destructive activities would be held accountable for the cost of repairs. In other words, the people who are rioting because they are too poor to afford food will be given new bills they won’t be able to pay. That’s not to say that I’m endorsing such destruction, and protesters should indeed be prosecuted when they become rioters, but it’s a bit of harsh irony nonetheless.
The point here is that the government is quickly moving toward increasingly repressive tactics to end the unrest. Many of the yellow vest squad members aren’t burning anything or destroying property. They’re just airing grievances against government policy. That’s the danger of living in a far more socialist society than our own in America. When you begin surrendering your rights and freedoms to the government, trusting that they know what’s best for you, the iron fist of control can come smashing down pretty quickly.
The French don’t have the same broad list of fundamental rights that are provided by the United States Constitution. And when pressed or discomfited too much, the government will take advantage of the power they’ve been given over their citizens. There’s a lesson in here for all of us if we pay attention.