As the motives and mandate of the Yellow Vests movement come more clearly into focus, and the sense of power and potential within individual citizens continues to rise, not only in France but in other countries as well, another development occurring alongside the protests has the potential to take things to a whole new level:
Police in France have repeatedly warned about fatigue and frustration seeping into the ranks in recent years and it appears the month-long and often violent yellow vest protests has pushed them over the edge.
They have already warned the government that they are at breaking point and on Wednesday they will launch their own protest movement, which has earned them the title “les gilets bleus” – the blue vests, after the protective body gear that they wear.–France’s The Local
It would be of particular interest to know if the general mood within the police force is one that is purely self-serving, in which they seek to improve their own living conditions without regard for the rest of the population, or if they are truly aligned with the fervor for fundamental change that has captured the popular imagination. Against the State: An ... Best Price: $6.50 Buy New $9.94 (as of 03:05 EDT - Details)
Police Union Alliance certainly seems more focused on the welfare of police only, as is the mandate of any workers’ union. Their main beef is the new budgetary constraints:
“This Thursday, December 20th, the National Assembly is set to adopt the 2019 budget for the security forces and in particular the police budget,” said Alliance. “This budget sees a drop of €62 million of investment in the National Police, which will mean that once again our working conditions deteriorate.”
The union went on to say: “Despite our repeated appeals to the President of the Republic to announce an emergency plan for the security forces, so far nothing has been said.”
The union called for a “black day for the police” in France on December 19th, asking officers to down their tools and picket the country’s police stations.
The union has called for the country’s police to “only respond to emergency calls” throughout the day on Wednesday, adding that if a significant effort to address their concerns was not seen from January 1st 2019, then other types of action would follow.
The Yellow Vests protest seem to be what has pushed police over the edge and put them in opposition not only with the government but also their chain of command as well. More officers in the French police force are saying they are tired of being the punching bag for Macron and his government.
Solidarity With Yellow Vests?
As stated in my previous article ‘Breaking: Watch French Police Officers Remove Their Helmets In Solidarity With The People,’ there is sympathy for the yellow vests among police officers, as noted by Alexandre Langlois, the secretary-general of the VIGI police union:
“Most of us back the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests), because we will be directly affected by any rise in fuel prices. Most of us can’t live where we work, because it is either too expensive, or we would be arresting our next-door neighbors, so we drive significant distances. Our tax contributions are going up in several areas, but there are no commensurate wage rises… It is hard to accept these cruel measures.”
However, the question is, when push comes to shove, will the French police attempt to establish a wholehearted solidarity with the yellow vests, or will they take the next carrot dangled in front of them by the government and continue to be their guard dogs? The answer to this question is in the minds and consciences of those very police officers. It’s hard to say what they will choose as a collective, and even more difficult to know at this stage if they will be going along with any proposals that come out of a meeting between the government and union leaders.
Thursday Update: Deal Already Done With Police
Well, isn’t that fitting. And fairly predictable. Even before I could finish this breaking article about a ‘Blue Vests’ protest, the government has caved to their demands.
The Yellow Vests protesters have been at it for weeks, in massive numbers all over France and in other countries as well, fighting an existential battle with the financial elite and its puppet governments, and very little response to their mandate is addressed, aside from Macron’s pathetic faux-humility and token economic gestures. The Progressive Era Best Price: $15.79 Buy New $8.33 (as of 01:05 EDT - Details)
Meanwhile law enforcement, the line of defense that protects the elite from a justifiably fed-up populous, partially participated in a one-day work slowdown and within hours they are given everything their union leaders asked for. Here are the details from this article in The Local:
After several hours of negotiations between France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner and France’s three main police unions, an agreement was finally reached regarding officers’ salaries.
“We have just signed an agreement with the Minister of the Interior — an agreement on a salary increase for police officers,” Yves Lefebvre, General Secretary of the Unité-SGP police union, told the French press. “That’s what we wanted, we wanted an immediate improvement in purchasing power,” he said. “Today we got what we wanted.” Jean-Claude Delage from the Alliance union described the agreement as a “significant” step forward.
Police have long complained of exhausting hours of patrols and chronic under-investment in equipment which have stretched departments to the breaking point and taken a heavy toll on the force. The crisis has only become exacerbated by the month-long yellow vest protests and the high heightened terror alert.
The understanding reached between the government and the police unions will see an average monthly wage increase of €120 for officers who are at the beginning of their careers. There will also be a wage increase of €120 to €150 for more experienced officers.
The interior minister has also promised to pay the €275 million that the French state owes the police in unpaid overtime. Police officers in France are reportedly owed a total of 23 million hours in overtime. The figure is for extra hours worked over decades but it has ballooned in recent weeks due to the “yellow vest” protests.
Now It’s On The Police
These developments may soon lead to very, very dangerous times in the streets of France. How will the Yellow Vests protesters feel about the police force, if the police accept these concessions from the government in return for re-establishing their antagonism to the protests? How will police officers of conscience deal with the task of beating back the legitimate demands of ordinary citizens when they mirror their own demands that the government has now acquiesced to? Will they not see the hypocrisy in striking out on ordinary citizens?
Besides governmental pressure, no doubt police officers will be pressured by their union to carry out their business as usual since the union leaders feel they have fulfilled their mandate for their members. But there is a new pressure as well: Yellow Vest protesters are more and more questioning police officers to their face, and have less regard for the excuse that ‘this is my job, these are my orders.’
Where do police officers of conscience ultimately give their allegiance? To the state they are paid by, or the population whose plight they have begun to identify with? Will there be an ideological civil war within the ranks of the police themselves? The hearts and minds of law enforcement officers might be the real battleground of this movement at the moment, and where the majority of officers end up gravitating towards might have a tremendous impact on whether or not this protest movement is going to find a satisfying resolution or become even more violent in the near term.
Reprinted with permission from Collective Evolution.