Macron Fears ‘War Scenes’ Tarnish France’s Global Image, ‘Brown Shirts’ Blamed for Grassroots Protests

A woman wears a Yellow vest (Gilet jaune) reading 'Macron resign' on the Champs Elysees in Paris, on November 24, 2018 during a protest against rising oil prices and living costs. - Police fired tear gas and water cannon on November 24 in central Paris against 'yellow vest' protesters demanding …
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty
VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

President Emmanuel Macron is concerned that “war scenes” during anti-tax-hike protests will tarnish France’s “global image,” while his government has focused blame on violence on the “brown plague” of the “far right.”

Macron made the comments to his Cabinet Monday after the country faced its tenth day of grassroots activism against his green agenda.

This weekend saw 100,000 ‘Yellow Vest’ protesters across the country with reports of violence and destruction of shop fronts and restaurants at the Champs-Elysées avenue, a tourist hot-spot, to which police responded by firing rubber bullets and tear gas.

“One shouldn’t underestimate the shock to people, in France and abroad, of seeing in the media what looked like war scenes,” the progressive president is reported to have said, according to government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

The action began as a populist-driven protest against diesel taxes, with protesters wearing the yellow vests which all French drivers must carry by law, but evolved to include protest against other policies, with protesters calling Macron the “president of the rich” who has abandoned Frenchmen in rural and suburban areas.

After Macron scolded protesters last week, his government has laid full blame for violent incidents on “the brown plague” — an allusion to paramilitary Nazi Brown Shirts — with his government suggesting those bearing banners of the populist, anti-mass migration National Rally (formerly the Front National) were responsible.

“Certain people wearing yellow vests were going up the Champs Élysées with flags that said ‘We are at home’ [a common National Rally slogan]. They belong to the very identitarian extreme right. And those people, we will fight them every minute, every hour, every day of Mr Macron’s term of office,” Mr Griveaux said Monday.

Budget minister Gérald Darmanin also claimed that the protests had been hijacked by “the brown plague” while Paris’s police chief Michel Delpuech saying protests had been “greatly infiltrated” by the “far right.”

Despite these claims, The Times reported the ultra-left Black Bloc France had clashed with police as well as there being evidence of far-left graffiti at the scenes, while France’s RTL reports that the originators of the violence amidst the protest was more disparate that the government portrayed, which a large number coming from the “ultra-left.”

Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally told media she condemned the violence, but added that “often, this violence emanate from the same: the black blocs, the ‘Antifa’ groups. The most serious violence comes from these extreme leftist groups.”

Givreaux conceded that Macron’s government, which has hitherto not liaised with protesters directly, should listen to voters’ anger and said: “Behind this anger, there is obviously something deeper that we must respond to, because this anger, these anxieties have existed for a long time.”

The Yellow Vests have appointed a delegation and want to meet with Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to review the decrease of green fuel tax and to create a “citizen assembly” to debate legislation related to France’s environmental policies, according to euronews.

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said he was “open to dialogue” but said that if proposals resulted in calls for the resignation of Macron, whose approval rating is at 26 per cent, “they would not be able to respond favourably.”

Macron gave a speech addressing the unrest and outline his energy strategy on Tuesday, where he stood by his green policies and further tax increases planned for January first, in his bid to ban the sale of petrol (gas) and diesel cars by 2040.

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