Bonnets Rouges Show Hollande the Red Card

The Red Beret tax revolt led by Bretons and French lorry drivers has caused a day of road havoc across France for the third time in four weeks with protesters now also raising a dismissive sea of Red Cards at the Socialist government.

Red card for M. Hollande as tax-revolted Bretons  protested in Carhaix Nov 30 (Credit Twitter)

Red card for M. Hollande as tax-revolted Bretons protested in Carhaix Nov 30 (Credit Twitter)

There was significant disruption all over the country, from Paris region to Bordeaux and Aix-en-Provence. The organisers of the protest said 4,500 trucks took part on Saturday while the Interior Ministry put the number at 2,200, AFP reported.

Breton farmers in Bonnets Rouge backed the growing national tax revolt Sat Nov 30 (Credit Twitter)

Breton farmers in Bonnets Rouge backed the growing national tax revolt Sat Nov 30 (Credit Twitter)

OTRE-Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Européens, the European road transport organisation, tweeted about its success below and posted a map showing what it claimed were all the points affected by blockades, go-slows and traffic filtering around the country:


Interactive map of areas affected by the Nov 30 national truck protest

Interactive map of areas affected by the Nov 30 national truck protest

At Carhaix there was what organisers described as ‘massive mobilisation’ by the Bonnets Rouges.

The leftwing HuffPost reported that between 17,000 and 40,000 bonnets rouges, borrowing their symbol from the 1675 Breton anti-tax revolt, gathered Saturday in Carhaix in Brittany, in what organisers said was a sign that protest was growing. “It is more than 40,000 ,” said spokesman, Christian Troadec, who called the protest a ” very great success “. The Finistère prefect for his part reported some 17,000 people held a “festive gathering ” on a site where a farming festival was organised.

The French 24 hour news broadcaster Francinfo went off in search of the forces in the field:

Bonnets Rouges out to make diversity strength. After their initial success on November 2 in Quimper, they plan to gather even more people next Saturday (Nov 30) in Carhaix. The movement brings together under one bonnet farmers, employees in the food industry and other sectors, employers, and politicians of all stripes. Mobilised around the call to “live,work and decide in Brittany ” this very diverse movement has sowed discord among those who, hitherto, had a virtual monopoly of protest and demonstration: namely the unions. From Lannion to Brest, Lorient to Morlaix, Carhaix to Rennes, France Info spent a week exploring a protesting Brittany. We focus on the “Red Caps” movement and seek to understand it, its evolution, its leaders, what they are trying to do and those – more than you’d think – who oppose it”. See their dossier here.

The photo-gallery below, (courtesy of participants filing their pictures on Twitter) shows the extent of protests that rolled out nationwide Saturday Nov. 30 and show no signs of abating as France tells its government “we are fed to the back teeth with all the taxes now being imposed.”

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The socialist-leaning La Dépêche reported government reaction a day before the latest protests: “If we have to change the rules regarding the environmental levy already passed into law, well, it can only be done at the time of the next budget , in other words in the autumn of 2014″ meaning any changes will only come in January 2015, Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll told the RMC / BFMTV (the TV broadcaster). The paper went on to point up some of the confusion reigning over the issue adding that: “The fact is that the implementation of the environmental tax now depends on the major overhaul of the tax system announced by the Prime Minister” (in response to the Red Beret-led revolt). The paper reminded readers that the contractual cost of not implementing the eco-tax was considerable: “The Government is due to take delivery of the system in the coming weeks for testing. The State will then be required by contract to pay Ecomouv a monthly rent of €18 million, even if the system is not implemented (and no revenues thus collected).”

The protests are now attracting considerable attention from grassroots organisations of the type which the leftwing paper Liberation has labelled “insurrectional” and which judging by the numerous Twitter accounts and Facebook pages appearing, are planning a long winter of discontent.

Here for instance is a trailer for a planned Hollande Dégage demonstration in Paris on January 26 by groups behind the website hollande (meaning Hollande quit).

The extent and duration of the tax revolt — now more than a month old — is not restricted to Red Caps and the unpopular eco-tax.

Just beneath the surface lurk simmering issues that are causing much angst to voters of all political persuasions. One such issue Mariage pour Tous has particularly angered large swathes of France and not just those conservatives who defend the traditional family as the core of social organisation.

Though what is now widely known as the Taubira Law — which authorises homosexual marriages — is on the statute books groups opposing it have vowed to continue protesting until it is revoked.

As a result a nationwide vigil movement, Les Veilleurs has emerged. These Veilleurs, people of all ages and religious beliefs or none, stand in front of the Justice Ministry and the National Assembly in Paris for regular candle-lit vigils. And says one report, they are causing Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (who hails from French Guyana and is France’s first Black Keeper of the Seals) some embarrassment. According to a Catholic-church backed website report: “A close adviser confides: ‘We feel we are under a permanent watch. We didn’t think they would last through the summer’.”

As the conservative paper Le Figaro reported when the movement began: “Thousands of young watchmen, who object to the Taubira law, are showing their opposition by standing in vigil lines holding candles and offering non-violent protest. Faced with baton-armed CRS, they say their ‘weapons’ are small candles, poetry and peaceful songs” (…) Although peaceful, the movement is seen as “a most subversive’ form of protest and as the vigils are held without Paris prefecture permission the participants have been threatened with up to a year in prison”, one watchman told the paper. However says Le Figaro “police generally show understanding for the vigil” (…) Meanwhile, the watchmen movement has spread widely through the provinces – and is now active in more than 110 cities.”

The website of Les Veilleurs in France — slogan Nous sommes les Veilleurs. Nous ne lâcherons rien, JAMAIS is here . It has posted a map showing where regular similar vigils are held across France. The movement also “supports” groups that provide “welcoming parties” wherever the Minister makes an official visit anywhere in France.

View Les Veilleurs en France in a larger map

This YouTube video shows a choral group of Veilleurs in front of the Mutualité offices in Paris holding an unauthorised sing-song on November 27 which soon led to police intervention:

The threads of discontent are likely to come to a head when voters go to the polls on  30 March 2014 to elect local authority officials across the country and later representatives to the European Parliament, as French News Online has reported elsewhere.

Story: Ken Pottinger

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