Strasbourg’s ‘Terrorist Attack’ Comes Just At The Height of Yellow Vest Impasse
It couldn’t come at a better time for the French government.
Pam Barker | Director of TLB Europe Reloaded Project
With the best will in the world, it is simply impossible not to see connections between a sudden ‘terrorist’ attack in the French city of Strasbourg and a month of vigorous action by the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) in France that has resulted in stalemate – to the government’s detriment.
Last night, a young man of 29, allegedly one Chekkat Cherif, recently radicalized according to reports and categorized as ‘Fiché S’ meaning he was on the terror watch list and thus well known to police and the intelligence services, shot up a Christmas market (remember Berlin’s?) leaving 3 dead and, up to now, 13 injured. He then fled by taxi and has managed to evade police thus far. Apparently he was due to be arrested the morning of the attack (yesterday morning) for a homicide-related crime, but wasn’t at home when police called. Now, as I type, rolling news is full of news of a manhunt in the Strasbourg area, with the security forces going full tilt (‘Total mobilization’: Strasbourg bans public demos amid massive manhunt for Christmas market gunman). Up to today, rolling news had been chock-full of Yellow Vest reporting to the exclusion of all else.
We recommend Zerohedge’s updated coverage on this topic: 3 Dead, 12 Wounded In Strasbourg “Terrorist Attack”; Shooter Reportedly Fled Scene In Taxi.
So Where Does This Leave the Yellow Vest Protests?
Up to this point, the Gilets Jaunes had had four Saturdays of protests that made a great deal of impact while not damaging their cause, on the contrary. The first Saturday (Nov. 17) saw nationwide protests, which is entirely logical because the GJs are a socio-economic phenomenon related to the small town/rural regions of France, essentially most of the country and thus the majority of the population. The second two Saturdays saw planned marches around the Champs Elysées in Paris – the symbolic seat of power, which involved an increase in violence and property damage each time due to ready infiltration by far left and far right ‘casseurs’ (smashers). Last Saturday, the 4th or ‘Act 4’ witnessed the greatest level of violence so far as the government waded in with military hardware. Act 4 was meant to keep protestors on the edges of Paris around the city’s main freeway and away from the threat of military violence in the centre. But violence continued within Paris itself as hundreds were arrested. This from AFP via The Local:
Armoured vehicles rolled through central Paris on Saturday as riot police clashed with “yellow vest” demonstrators, who set fire to barricades and hurled rocks in the latest demonstrations against President Emmanuel Macron.
Shouts of “Macron, resign” mingled with tear gas on the Champs-Elysees avenue, which was the scene of the worst rioting in Paris in decades last week.
Thick plumes of black smoke from fires could be seen rising high into the sky over the city.
Government calls for protesters to stay away from “Act IV” of a battle that began over fuel prices but ballooned into an anti-Macron revolt fell on deaf ears, with demonstrators making their way to Paris from across the country.
In the Grands Boulevards shopping district, masked protesters threw rocks at riot police and set fire to a barricade hastily assembled from stolen dustbins and Christmas trees.
Act V planned for this coming Saturday is a demonstration at the Place de la Bastille in the heart of Paris. It remains to be seen if this will go ahead and what media coverage it will get, if any.
Meanwhile, the government infamously responded with defiance about gas taxes (the originating problem) refusing to do anything about them, then a degree of capitulation followed, all the time huffing and puffing about ‘security’ and ‘the right to protest safely’. Macron meanwhile was virtually silent and clearly incapable of dealing with the problem, his silence being rightly taken for arrogance. Then finally he responded this past Monday night with a 15-minute televised address, which is extremely short by French standards. The contents were lame: raising the minimum wage or SMIC by €100 per month from 2019, no tax on overtime pay, cancellation of a planned tax increase for low-income pensioners, and employers would be encouraged to pay a tax-free bonus to employees at year’s end. He refused to reinstate tax on the wealthy, and had recently given big companies tax relief to the tune of 46 billion euros while continuing harsh austerity policies against ordinary citizens. See this article by celebrated French economist Thomas Piketty on the level of tax relief Macron has given to the ‘haves’: Trump, Macron: the same fight. Macron was put in power to ensure neoliberal austerity programs would continue, which tax the population more, privatize more and shovel more of our money up to the top. See Ramin Mazaheri’s excellent article on this, and Diana Johnstone’s with relevance to the Gilets Jaunes.
So, there was nothing of real substance in Macron’s speech that would affect the household budgets of these millions of poorer people, and the GJs were clearly cognizant of that. A damp squib.
The Gilets Jaunes in the Facebook groups are clearly suspicious of the timing of this shooting. French MSM outlet l’Express is running a story about how the GJs on social media are crying government manipulation: Fusillade à Strasbourg: des gilets jaunes crient au complot. But a typical response within the FB groups is: put the lid on your conspiracy theories out of respect for the families of the dead. Hence, decorous silence. It remains to be seen what will transpire this coming Saturday or what media coverage it will attract if it should go ahead.
It is mightily curious that this alleged terrorist has escaped since most of them end up dead at the scene. But that keeps the security services in action (they’re already reported to be exhausted after being deployed so heavily over the past month), the government looking noble, and the media thoroughly occupied with it.
When you can’t go much further with economic promises that the oligarchs and EU won’t permit, and you’ve already ramped up a show of military force without losing too much popular support – shut the issue down totally with something else.
As we’ve reported here before, these types of ‘terrorist’ attacks usually pop up in a series around election time – in France or other European countries, and then go ominously silent. Until another psychological action on public consciousness is required.
Whatever happens next, the government has cooled the issue down and bought itself time. And then we have the distraction of Christmas. Any attempt by the GJs to vie for attention would simply look like bad form.
One to the government?
Inserted image courtesy of BFMTV