The First of May is a national holiday in France that has a longstanding and potent significance for French workers. The “fête du travail,” as it is known, has always been a day for demonstrations, a day set aside for workers to air their grievances and stand up for their rights.
But this year, it’s not much of a surprise that these marches didn’t go quite according to plan. The scheduled demonstrations in the Montparnasse neighborhood of Paris were infiltrated by Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protestors, who have been demonstrating weekly since November, as well as members of the Black Bloc, a violent international anarchist group. Masked vandals smashed car windows and threw rocks and projectiles at police officers, who responded by spraying the crowds with tear gas.
These developments reveal one of the great issues with the gilets jaunes protests, and all large-scale protests nowadays, which is that, in a giant crowd, it can be hard to tell what exactly everyone is fighting for. Shared sympathies get mixed and misconstrued, and entire groups can be thrown into one blanket category that may have nothing to do with their original principles or intentions. Protest culture may be having a particularly poignant moment in France, but remember that not all protestors are created equal. And that hurling blame can be as easy and as dangerous as hurling stones.
Take at look at the BBC report above to learn more.