Right, Left Roast Macron for ‘Disastrous’ Decision to Use Military during Yellow Vest Protests
The decision is designed to demonstrate power while relieving France’s financially strained police, according to an expert.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to deploy military troops in order to boost security during upcoming protest rallies of the Yellow Vest movement has drawn fierce criticism from both the rightist and leftist opposition.
The upcoming deployment of armed servicemen was announced earlier this week in the wake of the violence and looting perpetrated by black bloc anarchists during last Saturday’s Yellow Vest protest in Paris.
The violent anarchists vandalized some downtown stores and other venues vandalized, and overwhelmed the some 5,000-strong riot police on duty for several hours.
About 7,000 military troops have already been deployed across France as a security measure since the 2015 terrorist attacks in the so called Operation Sentinel.
The military troops that will be used during the upcoming Yellow Vest rallies to secure government buildings in order to free up police forces will be redeployed precisely from Operation Sentinel.
French spokesman Benjamin Griveaux reiterated that the soldiers would deployed only to guard symbolic sites.
“[That will allow the police to] concentrate on crowd control, along with maintaining law and order,” he said.
The fact that the soldiers in question are armed with automatic weapons and it remains unclear how they would respond if tackled by anarchist rioters has led right-wing and left-wing opposition figures to lash out against French President Macron.
“Maintaining order in France should be the police’s and the National Gendarmerie’s business. It is not the army’s job,” Guillaume Larrivé, MP for the center-right Les Républicains party told Radio Classique, as cited by France24.
According to Larrivé, the government’s “improvised” response to the Yellow Vest crisis might “end up weakening civil peace”.
Bruno Retailleau, leader of Les Républicains Senators, already called on Macron to “reverse this disastrous decision” to use military troops.
“In what European democracy is the army called in to police a social movement?” Raphaël Glucksmann, who will lead the French Socialist Party at the EU elections, asked on Twitter, in similar criticism targeting Macron from the left.
“This shows the extent of Macron’s failure to reconcile the French and to ease the tensions in our society,” Glucksmann added.
“It’s unheard of,” said in turn Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party candidate in the last presidential election, said on Thursday.
“The government was releasing an arsenal of security and martial measures to mask the Interior Minister Christophe Castaner’s incompetence,” Hamon argued.
“The last time the State requisitioned the army for policing operations was in 1947-1948,” Élie Tenenbaum, an IFRI researcher and defense specialist, is quoted as saying.
Her referred to the events that started in the spring of 1947 when the French Communist Party called a series of strikes leading the then Interior Minister to deploy the army to help the police fearing an “insurrectional” turn of the demonstrations.
“It is not uninteresting to wonder what could happen if rioters attacked public buildings, as Sentinelle troops are not equipped to respond to this type of threat,” Tenenbaum continued.
“They don’t have a riot shield to protect themselves or an intermediate defense weapon. It is therefore important to provide extremely clear guidelines as to what actions they can take,” the expert argued, reminding that the troops face the risk of being attacked.
“In 2016, during demonstrations against the El Khomri law, Operation Sentinel troops protecting Les Invalides were attacked,” said Tenenbaum.
In his words, the rationale behind the French government’s decision to resort to the military’s help for securing the Yellow Vest protests is twofold.
It is supposed to create the impression of a power response to the unruliness while also relieving the overworked and financially constrained police who have been on extra duty since the Yellow Vest protests began in November 2018.
(Banner image: TV grab from France24)