A new French “revolution” was interrupted by police early today but will resume, with official blessing, tonight.
Police moved into the Place de la République in central Paris to remove 100 people and dismantle makeshift structures erected by the Nuit Debout movement, which has occupied the square each night for the past 12 days.
Police announced later, however, that the movement, which aims to abolish capitalism and “change the world”, has been given permission to start another series of nocturnal gatherings from 6pm this evening.
The police intervention followed scattered incidents of violence on the margins of the Nuit Debout – “Rise up at night” – movement at the weekend. Eight people were arrested, a car was burned and a young man was seriously injured when he fell while trying to place a banner on the statue of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic in the centre of the square.
Although centre-right politicians have called for the protests to be banned, the Socialist-led government seems content for the time being to play a watching game. The Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, met student and youth leaders today to make new proposals to help young people enter the work force.
“The government is listening. It understands the youths' worries,” Mr Valls said, announcing subsidies for young graduates looking for a job and other aid for apprentices and students, worth a total of €400m (£320m) to €500 m.
By sending in the police early today, the Paris town hall and French national government were enforcing an agreement that demonstrators and temporary structures would be removed from the site at midnight on Sunday night. In other words, it was a pointed reminder that the rolling, nocturnal protest – which claims to have no leaders and no precise demands – exists under official sufferance.
On the other hand, the left-wing government is unwilling to be heavy-handed while the movement is growing slowly, mostly youthful and, on the whole, peaceful. An estimated 2,000 people joined “general meetings” and debates on the future of the world in the Place de la République on Saturday night – twice the numbers earlier in the week.
According to the nuitdeboutistes, time froze when their meetings began on the last day of last month. Today is, therefore, not 11 April but 42 March.
Similar, smaller gatherings have sprung up in 60 French towns and cities and also in Belgium and Spain.
Police said that leaders of the Nuit Debout movement – such as they are in the supposedly leaderless movement – had asked for permission to start a new series of meetings from tonight, Permission was granted.
Nuit Debout describes itself as a “citizens’ movement” of protest against the stayus quo, without precise aims or demands. The great bulk of the participants are, however, followers of the many different French tribe of the hard anti-capitalist or “anti-globalist” left.
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