Hollande points finger over Macron errors
François Hollande has accused his former protégé Emmanuel Macron of making a litany of errors that have fanned the flames of anger in France to new heights.
Foremost among the embattled President’s mistakes was ramming through a weak pension reform project at a time when French people were already grappling with rampant inflation and a cost-of-living crisis, Mr Hollande said.
France has been set ablaze by violent protests since Mr Macron pushed through his unpopular pension reforms, which raise the age of retirement from 62 to 64, without putting it to a parliamentary vote.
Mr Macron’s failure to communicate his plans to the public has led to new levels of anger directed at his government, Mr Hollande said.
“There have been crises in the past… but here, we have a level of anger and resentment that I’ve rarely known,” he told France’s BFMTV on Sunday.
“In many parts of the population there is this same anger – this feeling that democracy does not work as it should,” he said.
Mr Hollande also suggested the President’s pension reforms were flawed.
“When you propose a pension reform that requires effort from those who worked hard and early, and nothing from those with the highest incomes, it is the wrong way round,” he said.
Mr Hollande’s comments came after protesters opposing the construction of a water reservoir clashed with police, leaving one 30-year-old demonstrator in critical condition after being hit in the head with a projectile.
Two police officers were also seriously injured. Organisers claimed the protest drew as many as 25,000 people, while 3,000 police were deployed.
Although union-organised demonstrations have been largely peaceful, clashes between radical black-clad anarchists and police forces – in particular, the notorious Brav-M unit in Paris – have become increasingly violent.
In recent days, calls to disband the notorious motorised riot police unit have grown louder, after video footage emerged appearing to show its officers beating protesters in unprovoked attacks.
In one of the more shocking videos, witnesses also captured two officers chasing down a protester on motorbikes and running over his leg.
“It was very scary,” the victim, Valentin, 19, told The Libération. “In my head, I was running to survive.”
After being knocked down and rolled over by one of the two bikes, Valentin says officers pummelled him on all sides, picked him up by the collar and threw him against a tree while hurling insults. Police left him without issuing an arrest.
An internal investigation has been launched after Brav-M officers were heard insulting, intimidating and slapping youths involved in last Monday’s demonstrations.
An online petition published on the National Assembly’s public petitions platform calling for the dissolution of the unit has garnered nearly 27,000 signatures since its launch on Thursday. Petitions require 500,000 signatures to be considered for debate in the assembly.
“We demand the dissolution of the Brav-M. Let’s stop the slaughter,” the petition reads.
But in an interview with France Info Saturday, Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez defended the unit, saying that dissolving the group “is not on the agenda”.
“The behaviour of a few individuals should not cast shame on an entire unit which, in recent years and particularly in this moment, proves all its usefulness,” he said.
The Brav-M was created in 2019 during the height of the populist Yellow Vest crisis.
Officers patrol the streets in pairs on motorcycles and are deployed to intervene quickly in hotspots where anti-riot police on foot cannot. Officers carry tear gas, hand grenades and telescopic truncheons.
Brav-M has been compared to a similar brigade of mounted police called “voltigeurs”, created after the student uprising of May 1968.
That unit was dissolved 20 years later after three of its members chased down a young French-Algerian man and beat him to death during student protests. Malik Oussekine was emerging from a jazz concert and had not been part of the protests.