Do French Lives Matter?

Where was the outrage when police were maiming protesters in France?

Fraser Myers
Topics Politics World

The brutal police killing of George Floyd has sparked waves of protests not only in the United States but also in the form of solidarity demos in Europe. In the UK, thousands defied the lockdown to march in London, while hundreds also protested in Manchester and Cardiff. The killing of Floyd, the subsequent protests and riots and the police brutality meted out against demonstrators have all received copious attention in the UK from the media, celebrities, politicians and more.

What is striking in this sudden outpouring of protest is how much it contrasts with the total indifference to the police violence which was, not long ago, on display week in, week out practically on our doorstep. I’m talking, of course, about the yellow-vest protests in France. The gilets jaunes revolt was the most significant and sustained period of unrest in France since 1968. But the protests themselves garnered disproportionately little media attention. And the many acts of police violence against the protesters raised barely any comment or condemnation whatsoever. The perception of a media blackout was so strong that fake-news stories spread online saying that the British government had actually banned our press from covering the gilets jaunes.

The scale of police violence was astonishing and stomach-churning. Between November 2018 and June 2019, according to figures compiled by Médiapart, 860 protesters were injured by the police – 315 suffered head injuries; 24 lost the use of an eye; and five had hands torn off. In December 2018, an elderly woman who had no involvement in the protests was killed when police threw a grenade into her flat.

Among these victims are not only protesters but also journalists and medics. Police have been filmed beating elderly and disabled people, as well as using tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. The main source of injuries was ‘Flashball’ rubber bullets – a non-lethal weapon that has been banned in every EU country except France. More than 13,000 of these bullets were fired in the first three months of the protests. Another extreme weapon used by police was the GLI-F4 – a teargas grenade which contains explosives that maimed numerous protesters. The grenade was eventually banned by the French government in early 2020.

Things got so bad that the UN called for a ‘full investigation’ into the police’s ‘excessive use of force’. Similarly, the Council of Europe’s human-rights commissioner called for an end to the use of Flashballs against protesters. Amnesty International denounced the ‘extremely heavy-handed’ policing deployed against peaceful protesters. Eventually, even the French government acknowledged it had a problem with police violence.

Much of the UK coverage emphasised the violence caused by a minority. They repeated the French government’s smears that anyone donning a yellow vest was likely a racist, homophobe or an anti-Semite – and was probably being manipulated by Russia. Britain’s paper of record, The Times, claimed that the French police had been ‘overpowered’ and ‘powerless’ in the face of the ‘gilets jaunes mob’ – despite the fact that on the weekend concerned, there was a police officer on duty for every protester.

Police brutality ought to be deplored wherever it takes place and whoever it affects. While the rioting in the US is tacitly condoned and understood as a righteous expression of anger, the yellow vests’ populist uprising was looked at with horror. The sad truth is that even when the gilets jaunes were being maimed and brutalised, they did not elicit much sympathy among the political class on these shores.

Fraser Myers is a staff writer at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

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Neil McCaughan

7th June 2020 at 1:36 pm

Remarkable that the doyenne of fat two-faced sows, Lady Thornberry, demanded assurance that British made anti-riot equipment would not be available to the US government to use against lovely fluffy arsonists and looters.

Yet this same bloated hypocrite hasn’t once expressed any concern about Macron’s violent tactics, nor asked whether his thugs are using British made equipment.

Sam Brown

5th June 2020 at 8:07 am

I gave up on the UK’s MSM, not just print but broadcast, when it did two things: it colluded on demonising ‘activist journalists’ like TR and moderately right-wing politician Nigel Farage who caught the public mood but espoused views and news the governments of the day would rather not become popular. They were deemed dangerous to the establishment (not the public) so the gloves came off.
The second was turning its back on the gilet jaunes protests. Claims of collusion with the UK government, which did not want the popular protests replicated here, smack of truth so comprehensive was the lack of media coverage.
A ‘free’ press so willing to bend the knee to government and ignore popular feeling is a pernicious cancer in a free society. It rots it from the inside in a way few other perversions can. Thankfully, our MSM is withering – far too slowly for my liking – and other sources are becoming the go-to news outlets people are turning to. May it die the death it fully deserves. Better no MSM than a rotten one.

Andrew Levens

6th June 2020 at 10:10 am

Print MSM may be dying, but what about TV news, they all soaked up the lies and hatred for Dominic Cummings, our only real hope of changing the current sclerotic political system?

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