He is afraid of French! Violent chaos in Paris deals Macron fatal election hammer blow

Emmanuel Macron discusses 'rule of law'

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The Champs Elysées in Paris were filled with the smoke of tear gas fired by some 7,000 police officers as “Freedom Convoy” demonstrators demanded the end of vaccine passes. While Senator Alain Houpert condemned Mr Macron’s “excessive response” to the protests, the president’s team was also accused of “using the police for political purposes” ahead of April’s presidential election.

Bruno Attal, national secretary of the France Police-Policiers union, said the government’s intention in ordering disproportionate responses to tensions on the streets is to “make people talk about the police rather than the demands of the demonstrators”.

Inspired by horn-blaring protests in Canada, in which truckers demonstrated against a vaccine mandate for trans-border traffic, French motorists in Paris honked in defiance of a police order not to enter the city.

Mr Houpert was asked on Sud Radio in the context of the chaotic scenes: “Who is really afraid here?”

He replied: “This government is afraid of the French.”

Prime minister Jean Castex said: “The right to demonstrate and to have an opinion is a constitutional right guaranteed in our republic and in our democracy, the right to block others or stop them from coming and going is not.

“If they block the traffic or try to block the capital we will be very strict.”

But they did block traffic, with flags wavering from trucks and cars around the busy Arc de Triomphe junction.

The result – the interception of at least 500 vehicles, nearly 300 penalty tickets handed out by mid-morning on Saturday, and five arrests.

As election-time approaches, Mr Macron’s government is keen to keep demonstrations from spiralling into large-scale demonstrations like the anti-government “Yellow Vest” protests of 2018.

France: Police clash with protesters at the Champs-Élysées

However, some of the people taking part in the convoys wore the infamous high-visibility garments that illustrated the popular rallies of the years before the pandemic.

Some far-right politicians and remnants of the anti-government movement came out in support of the marches, too.

The “Yellow Vest” revolt shook Mr Macron’s presidency over various months, and with little time left until France goes to the polls, “Freedom Convoy” could play a role beyond the country’s pandemic strategy.

Yet this is what currently lies at the heart of the public’s discontent as well as at the centre of the narrative of those who want to prevent Mr Macron from a second term.

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Mr Houpert claims the Covid pass, known in French as “passe sanitaire”, “has nothing sanitary about it”.

Instead, the Senator of the Côte-d’Or argues, it is a “Machiavellian political work of the government”.

And he is not alone.

20 French senators — all from Les Republicains party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Houpert — have called for the immediate suspension of the document in an open letter published in Le Figaro, saying there is “no justifiable use” for the measure except its use as a “political strategy”.

It read: “After having put the French under surveillance, the government wants to be the one to ‘free them’ a few weeks before the first round of the presidential election. It’s a big trick.

“The vaccine pass is even counterproductive, because it gives the impression of being protected, and encourages people to abandon barrier gestures…

“Common sense has been replaced by political strategy, to the detriment of French freedoms.”

The letter went on to urge the government to stop “p** off the French”, using the well-known phrase “emmerder les Francais”, and said the moment had arrived “to give freedom back to the French public before the country falls back into disorder”.

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