Tag Archives: France

France is still in denial about racism and police brutality

“George Floyd and my little brother died in exactly the same way.” These are the words of Assa Traore, whose brother, Adama, died in the custody of French police in a Paris suburb in July 2016.

Traore, a 24-year-old Black Frenchman, was apprehended by three gendarmes following a dispute over an identity check. He lost consciousness in their vehicle and died at a nearby police station. He was still handcuffed when paramedics arrived. One of the three arresting officers told investigators that Adama had been pinned down with their combined body weight after his arrest. 

Ever since his untimely death, Traore’s grieving family has been fighting for justice. They launched petitions, organised protests, and commissioned private autopsies to discover what caused a perfectly healthy young man to suddenly stop breathing a few hours after being arrested over a trivial matter. Despite their efforts, however, they did not get any satisfactory answers from the authorities. Last month, French medical experts exonerated the three police officers once again, dismissing a medical report commissioned by the young man’s family that said he had died of asphyxiation. None of the arresting officers ever faced any charges over his death. They are still employed by the same police force. Some members of their brigade even received commendations for the role they played in suppressing the protests that followed Traore’s death.

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Posted by on June 29, 2020 in European Union, North America


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[Letter from the Comoro Islands] Oceans Apart

I had been in Domoni—an ancient, ramshackle trading town on the volcanic island of Anjouan—for only a few summer days in 2018 when Onzardine Attoumane, a local English teacher, offered to show me around the medina. Already I had gotten lost several times trying to navigate the dozens of narrow, seemingly indistinguishable alleyways that zigzagged around the old town’s crumbling, lava-rock homes. But Onzardine had grown up in Domoni and was intimately familiar with its contours.

Stocky in build, with small, deep-set eyes and neatly trimmed stubble, Onzardine led me through the backstreets, our route flanked by ferns and weeds sprouting from cracks in the walls and marked by occasional piles of rubble. After a few minutes, we emerged onto a sunlit cliff offering views of the mustard-colored hills that surround the town, dotted with mango, palm, and breadfruit trees. We clambered down a trail, past scrawny goats foraging through piles of discarded plastic bottles, broken flip-flops, and corroded aluminum cans, toward a ledge where a dozen young men were waiting for the fishing boats to return to shore, gazing blankly out across the sea.

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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in Africa, Reportages


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Why Macron Refuses to Retire in France’s Pensions Battle

A few days into the wave of strikes in December against French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, a rumor went around that he’d recently met the boss of US investment fund giant BlackRock, Larry Fink. It’s true that since becoming president, Macron has met with Fink on several occasions. It’s true also that the firm has taken a clear interest in French government policy on retirement savings. But the rumor was false.

It didn’t matter: France’s social media networks went into overdrive. A YouTube video showing images of an earlier Macron–Fink meeting with the caption “Pension reform is BlackRock reform” went viral. The firm, which is the largest shareholder of many French multinationals, is regarded in France as the epitome of predatory capitalism—and Macron himself, a former investment banker, is seen as a standard-bearer for high finance.

Emmanuel Macron’s year thus ended as it began, with mass protests against his social policy. With hindsight, it had become plain that the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests), the grassroots uprising that was sparked into life by rising fuel prices and the increased cost of living, reached its high point in January 2019. Eleven months after that populist but politically disparate movement’s peak, the mobilization of opposition to Macron now looks more traditional.

Led by trade unions, notably those representing workers for the national rail company (SNCF) and the Paris metro, this new wave of protest is rebelling against the French president’s proposed pensions reform. These labor unions were big losers in 2018 when they failed to prevent Macron from abolishing the special status that, for example, gave their members guarantees of job security. The rail workers are now challenging a plan designed to end a number of benefits, including the right to retire several years earlier than most employees. Very quickly, staff in other sectors—teachers, doctors, nurses, and nursing auxiliaries—together with large numbers of pensioners and students joined them in striking. The Interior Ministry reported that some 806,000 people had taken part in demonstrations across France on December 5, the first day of action; the left-wing General Confederation of Labor (CGT) trade union federation put the count at 1.5 million. Either way, it was the biggest turnout for a general strike in a generation.



Protest is the new normal

A for Algeria, B for Bolivia, C for Chile, E for Ecuador, F for France… by now what triggered their protests may not matter very much, and satisfying the demonstrators’ initial demands may have little effect. Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera didn’t clear the streets of Santiago by cancelling a 4% rise in the price of metro tickets, and the government of Hong Kong failed to calm its opponents by withdrawing an extradition bill. Once protests get going, the authorities have to make more concessions or send in the police or the army. Or, as in Iraq, Chile and Argentina, promise to amend the constitution.

No sooner has the fire been extinguished in one place than it breaks out somewhere else. The people’s demands are colossal: ‘The people want to bring down the system’ (ash-shaab yurid isqat an-nizam), according to the slogan widely used since the Arab Spring. How will they achieve that and what will they do then? They often don’t know, yet they press on. In Algeria people have been demonstrating for nearly a year; in Hong Kong they started last March. Their courage is great: fear of brutal repression could paralyse them, but they don’t give up. What is happening in Iran where even the number of demonstrators murdered is a secret?

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Posted by on January 8, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Leçons du mouvement des « gilets jaunes »

Que faut-il penser, ce qui s’appelle penser, et non courir en aboyant, de la contradiction, violente, durable, entre le mouvement des gilets jaunes et les autorités de l’Etat, conduites par le petit président Macron ?

J’ai dit fermement, dès le tour final des élections présidentielles, que je ne me rallierai jamais ni bien entendu à Marine Le Pen, capitaine de l’extrême-droite parlementaire, ni à Macron, qui montait ce que j’ai appelé « un coup d’Etat démocratique », au service pseudo-réformateur du grand capital.

Aujourd’hui, je ne change évidemment rien à mon jugement sur Macron. Je le méprise sans aucune retenue. Mais que dire du mouvement des gilets jaunes ? Je dois avouer qu’en tout cas, dans ses débuts, l’année dernière, je n’y ai rien trouvé, que ce soit dans sa composition, ses affirmations ou ses pratiques, qui soit à mes yeux politiquement novateur, ou progressiste.

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Posted by on March 27, 2019 in European Union




Aucun gouvernement – aucun, serait-il le plus bénévolent – ne peut rester inerte après les violences qui ont émaillé les manifestations de samedi. Après les scènes d’émeute – circonscrites mais très condamnables – des Champs-Elysées, du Capitole et d’autres lieux, l’opinion en tirerait une conclusion automatique : ne rien faire de plus, c’est laisser faire.

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Posted by on March 25, 2019 in European Union



Who are the gilets jaunes?

The French are used to sudden large-scale protest movements involving street demonstrations and often violence, and to the powers-that-be responding by revoking unpopular measures. Therefore, whilst the gilets jaunes movement may have taken many people by surprise, not least the political class, it is nothing unique. Indeed, it is one of a recent succession of such movements that includes the strikes of 1995, the banlieue riots of 2005, and the demonstrations by school pupils and university students in the 1990s and 2000s. It is by no means unheard of that a protest movement that has a negative impact on people’s everyday life – including road blocks, shortages and damage to property – should nevertheless continue to command the support of a large majority of the population. It is not so much the demonstrators that are held responsible for the disorder, but the government, because of its failure to listen and failure to react, or the police for its incompetent management of the violence at demonstrations.

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Posted by on February 2, 2019 in European Union, Reportages



From Yellow Vests to the Green New Deal

NEW YORK – It’s old news that large segments of society have become deeply unhappy with what they see as “the establishment,” especially the political class. The “Yellow Vest” protests in France, triggered by President Emmanuel Macron’s move to hike fuel taxes in the name of combating climate change, are but the latest example of the scale of this alienation. There are good reasons for today’s disgruntlement: four decades of promises by political leaders of both the center left and center right, espousing the neoliberal faith that globalization, financialization, deregulation, privatization, and a host of related reforms would bring unprecedented prosperity, have gone unfulfilled. While a tiny elite seems to have done very well, large swaths of the population have fallen out of the middle class and plunged into a new world of vulnerability and insecurity. Even leaders in countries with low but increasing inequality have felt their public’s wrath.

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Posted by on January 26, 2019 in European Union


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The “yellow vests” won’t let Emmanuel Macron take back control

On 4 January, putting into practice President Emmanuel Macron’s new year’s resolution to be firm with thegilets jaunes (“yellow vests”) movement, the French government’s spokesperson, Benjamin Griveaux, declared that the administration would “go on with the reforms and be more radical”. He condemned the actions of the anti-tax protesters, who he described as “agitators stirring up insurrection”. The yellow vests might have ruined the fun in late 2018, but 2019 was absolutely going to be the year the Elysée took back control.

On 5 January, Griveaux had to flee his office building as protesters smashed the entrance open with heavy plant machinery and entered the courtyard. The yellow vests’ “Act VIII”, held in Paris and across France last Saturday, saw a resurgence both in numbers of marchers – there were 50,000, compared to 30,000 in the weeks before Christmas – and in violent clashes between the police and the yellow vests.

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Posted by on January 25, 2019 in European Union



Forgotten France Rises Up

On December 15, at the Place de l’Opéra in Paris, three Yellow Vests read out an address “to the French people and the president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron” saying: “This movement belongs to no one and to everyone. It gives voice to a people who for 40 years have been dispossessed of everything that enabled them to believe in their future and their greatness.”

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Posted by on January 19, 2019 in European Union