Maxime Borg – Behind the Liberal Democrat Macron is an authoritarian

This is an outstanding description of the current political situation in France

Maxime Borg is a political economist at the European University Institute’s Department of Political and Social Sciences

This is a thread posted by Maxime Borg on twitter on 24 March. You can read it here


I am a French PhD in social sciences at a foreign university. I have too often heard my colleagues expressing a misrepresentation of Emmanuel Macron as a champion of liberal democracy. I would like to share my experience of yesterday’s demonstration to deconstruct this image

First of all, I’m used to participating in demonstrations, even the most violent ones like those of the yellow jackets in Paris. But still, yesterday’s demonstration was really a shock.

Until yesterday, I usually saw police waiting for a “good” reason to intervene in the processions violently, for example protesters setting up barricades or breaking the glass of a bus shelter mockup.

Whatever we think of the political legitimacy of these acts, they are done by a very small part of the demonstrators and cannot be used to justify random police violence against all demonstrators, including the peaceful ones.

But yesterday, the level of arbitrary police violence clearly leveled up.

The police did not aim to fulfil its traditional mission, i.e. order maintenance, but repression against the opponents to the reform, black blocks and unionists, violent and pacific demonstrators.

Yesterday’s demonstration was not a “wildcat” demonstration as it happened in the last nights in Paris. It was a legal demonstration organised and declared by the inter-union council, composed of all the most important unions in my country.


Geographically far from the violent actions of the black blocs in the front line, I saw 50-60-year-old unionists in the middle of the procession being beaten with truncheons and tear gas for no reason by policemen arriving by surprise from a small perpendicular street.

Policemen’s helmets masked them and they removed their registration numbers from their jackets so as not to be identified in case of legal proceedings, which is illegal.

I was tear-gassed three times without being able to move or flee in a very dense crowd, with all the consequences you can imagine, i.e. breathing difficulties, burning skin and eyes, being surrounded by hundreds of panicked people who were in the same physical situation as me.


The last time I was gassed, policemen took advantage that people in a very dense crowd were unable to move more than 20 cm away and see more than 2 metres due to the white smog to pounce on us and bludgeon us in a totally arbitrary manner.

My little brother was a few metres away and I will remember for the rest of my life his screams of fear, shouting my name, letting me know that a policeman was trying to bludgeon me right behind my back.

Then we decided to leave the demonstration but, as usual, the police illegally blocked all the adjacent streets to the square we were in to prevent us from leaving, forcing us to endure more gas and police chases. By then it was 6pm and the demonstration was still legal until 7pm.

Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, the French Defender of Rights and a UN special rapporteur have denounced police violence and/or abusive arrests of demonstrators in the last few days.

After Emmanuel Macron’s refusal to put the pension reform to the vote, it is the right to demonstrate that is now being violated in France.

The simple fact of being in a demonstration constitutes a risk of being subjected to potentially irreparable physical violence on you without any legal justification and without any real possibility of finding the perpetrator for legal proceedings.

In a context where 71% of the population is against the reform

(a), the deliberate use of arbitrary and repressive police violence participates to make 62% of the French support a future hardening of the strike.

(b) By denying the right to protest, Macron is far from being the defender of liberal democracy that many abroad imagine him to be. He has now embarked on the path of authoritarianism to carry out his unpopular reform agenda.



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