“Macron’s resignation today! One day is enough.” The slogan has echoed from Twitter to the streets, at protests convened by the organization “Social Front.” They marched in Paris after the election of Emmanuel Macron as president. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people (1,600, according to the police) responded to the call by some federations of the CGT, Sud, UNEF and the movements that fought against the “Loi Travail,” the labor law reform supported by the new president of the French republic, when he was a member of the Socialist government.
Macron included as the first step of his program a new reform of the labor code defined as a “simplification.” He also promised a new attack against national contracts in favor of corporate contracts. In short, he assured greater freedom to employers in defining “the actual duration of the job,” which is the number of hours worked by employees. For the old network of business associations around Europe and the French Medef, El Khomri’s version of the Loi Travail was not enough. After the legislative elections in June, the fight for the disintegration of the rules of labor law and insecurity will begin again.
There is concern for the legislative instrument Macron intends to use: the decree for “ordinances.” He is choosing to continue the trend set by the Socialist government of Manuel Valls, which suspended the parliamentary debate by applying the notorious Article 49.3 of the Gaullist Constitution. The state of emergency, that was declared in the country for anti-terrorist operations, was applied to approve the most contested reform in the history of the Fifth Republic. They seem to be a premise for a return of the social opposition to a liberal concept of the labor market, which has already razed the Socialists.
The “Social Front” had already demonstrated in Paris on April 22 with a smaller crowd. Between the first and second round of the presidential elections, its appeal gave a political form to the slogan written at the foot of Marianna in the Place de la République, the evening of the first round: “Ni patrie, ni patron, Ni Le Pen, Ni Macron.” Regardless of the “plague or cholera that will come to power,” the march Monday was the “first social mobilization” in a country that wants to break with the artificial dialectic in which transalpine politics are locked: between the Front National’s fascist-populism and Macron’s compassionate liberalism.
The opposition intends to start from the social issue that, along with the issue of violent discrimination against immigrant populations and the new generation French citizens, is the root of a multiple class fracture that carries with it the seeds of an even more disruptive radicalism.
Romain Altmann (Info-Com CGT) said: “What lies ahead is very serious, a Loi Travail 2. Whoever is in power, woman or man, never in the past 40 years have we suffered so many social regressions.” The unrest spread among the militants has not prompted the major unions to take a stand yet. Macron’s announcement has caused bewilderment even among union leaders. On May 1, Jean-Luc Melenchon asked not to touch the labor code again, correcting the widespread impression that Macron wants to revive a “social war” in the country. No answer from Macron. During the summer, the new law could take shape.
Also, the management of the demonstration Monday proved to be aligned with the tactics used by the socialists in the past. Before arriving at Bastille, a national police platoon — dressed as Robocop and armed with shotguns with flashball and Lbd 40 mm rubber bullets ammunition — stormed into the mass of demonstrators. A “trap,” or perimeter, was established; the parade was divided. Lbd shots were fired, and three wounded were reported in this peaceful demonstration. The goal of these actions is to break and disperse the march, but this time it did not work. On Sunday, a few minutes after the news of Macron’s win, the police applied its harsh tactics against the “savage” peaceful marches in the Ménilmontant neighborhood, the Parisian Eastern area which is not all white and Franco-French.
In small swarms, protesters began to move in groups of 10 to 50, walking fast in one of the less imperial and touristy districts of Paris. The summons called to the Couronnes, Belleville and Jourdain metro stations. On social media, they were told to avoid the large squares. But the police responded and organized mobile checkpoints. The first one was fierce. In rue Sorbier, in front of Lieu-dit, one of the area’s most popular bars where the radical left meets in the capital, a squad car turned on the intersection and almost hit a guy. Some young people stopped and banged their fists on the windows: “Cassez-vous!” They screamed. “Go away!”
White vans scoured the junction with rue de Ménilmontant. Like aliens from another planet, the national police agents landed and pointed shotguns. Among them, there was also a woman. An agent addressed a young man with the “you (tu)” instead of the “You (vous).” He became furious: “You are not allowed to talk me like that.” In France, the “vous” is still an important formality. “Tout le monde déteste la police”: the slogan of the big demonstrations against the reform of the labor market “Loi Travail” echoes in the familiar streets under a giant mural reminiscent of Matisse’s dance: “Nous les gars of Ménilmontant.” As an act of defiance, the platoon with helmets and shields cut through the small crowd that had gathered in the street.
Five hundred meters away, where half an hour before a little “wild dancing” started, with a band and hundreds of young people, the first police cordon of the evening was set. Vans and platoons surrounded and dispersed the dancing crowd. “You can pass by, but do not go back,” said a giant agent, wearing a balaclava under the helmet.
Micro-parades of children and young people, students and temporary workers of different nationalities, went on for hours, while agents wearing armor struggled to chase after them. The demonstration went to Couronnes. The police charged the front of the procession with stun grenades and tear gas, while throwing stinging gas to those in the back to disperse them. At Rue des Panoyaux, the police set another “trap” which isolated 130 peaceful demonstrators. Nine were arrested by the Bac, the “anti-crime brigades,” undercover agents dressed as protesters, while there are rumors a person received deportation papers. Those arrested were loaded onto a van. The protesters tried to stop it, but were turned away under a fury of spray, as a police team deployed shields.
Back at rue Sorbier, at the junction with rue Ménilmontant, someone threw a couple of empty bottles. In response, the police fired tear gas. The gas invaded the bar. After breaking the encirclement, the van took off. The swarms of protesters went around the neighborhood gathering the people. The cat and mouse game continued until 2 a.m. It was a first salvo for those waking up Monday in Macronia, a pressure cooker of a country.