(Photograph by Rémy Soubanère)
… to participate knowingly in a group, even if only temporarily, with a view to preparing, characterised by one or more material evidence, intentional violence against persons or the destruction or degradation of property is punishable by one year of imprisonment and a fine of 15,000 Euros.
Article 222-14-2 of the french penal code (introduced under the Nicolas Sarkozy presidency)
… when a demonstration is not declared, is prohibited, when it is organised to vandalise [casser/to break], all of those who participate, who in fact protect the vandals, who encourage them or glorify them on social networks, are complicit with them.
Eduoard Philippe, french prime minister interpreting the above cited article (Le Monde 20/043/2019)
We assume our crime.
We assume our solidarity with all of the “yellow vests” who for four months have imagined and acted to create a different world, freed from an untouchable and arrogant oligarchy, liberated from the reign of money; a world of solidarity experienced in occupations, assemblies, protests and self-defense.
We assume our solidarity with all of the “yellow vests” who have been the targets of State violence.
We assume our defense of rebellion against and escape from a social-political-economic system – capitalism – that rests upon the domination, exploitation and destruction of living nature.
In the wake of the 18th Act of the yellow vest insurrection(s), the french government has promised to tighten the noose even further around all protest: a prohibition against the yellow vests to protest in “symbolic” streets and squares of the country (e.g., the Champs-Elysées) as soon as “violent elements” or “violent intentions” are identified among the protesters; for this purpose, drones and marking or branding products will be used; all “crowd control” weaponry available is to be permitted, and so much the worse for those who are injured; the fine for participating in a non-declared, illegal demonstration is to rise from 35 to 135 Euros (Eduoard Philippe, Le Monde 20/03/2019); the army is to be mobilised for an eventual 19th Act to hold sensitive fixed positions, thus freeing up the riot-military police to engage directly with protesters. (Le Monde 20/03/2019)
And thus, “democracy” is assured.
It is said that the first demonstration in france took place in 1909. In support of the spanish anarchist, Francisco Ferrer, the Socialist Party and Jean Jaurès transformed the uprisings of the past into “demonstrations”, with their own marshals. The idea was to impress the ruling class by peacefully protesting. And it was a way to push aside disturbing elements. (Xavier Crettiez, Le Monde 20/03/2019)
The yellow vests have rejected this pacified tradition of political protest. Described as vandals, “zadists”, criminals, they have thereby incurred the violence of the State, a violence born of the fear that people may discovery and joyfully experience the beauty of autonomy.
Where the insurrection goes form here, no one can predict. Indeed, no one could ever have predicted that the movement would continue for as long as it has. At its most intense, it has been an extraordinary “school” for courageous, self-determination.
Its fragility lies perhaps in the “normalisation” of the weekly Acts, that they become predictable, and thus ever more fragmented and controllable. And what has waned have been the occupations – not by choice, but as the result of State ordered evictions – and it was above all in these that the movement found its collective self-creation.
No insurrection is sustainable only with bravado. If the yellow vests have persisted, it has been because of indignation – an ongoing, unanswerable indignation. But they have also been animated by the discovery that together, in daily struggle, new worlds can be made.