ANALYSIS BY Steve Turley
Arrest of Yellow Vest leader Drouet slammed
as ‘abuse of power’ & ‘dictatorship’
Eric Drouet was detained by police as some of the movement’s supporters gathered in the capital’s Place de la Concorde, near the iconic Arc de Triomphe monument. People left candles in remembrance of the movement’s wounded in clashes with police.
Despite having a decentralized structure, Drouet has become one of several key figureheads in the Yellow Vest movement, rallying support on social media and giving media interviews.
Tweeting his support for the man, left-wing politician Jean-Luc Melenchon called the arrest an “abuse of power,” and the target of political policing.
Benjamin Cauchy, another gilets jaunes media figure who takes a more moderate line on the protests, said after Drouet’s arrest:
“Unfortunately I have the impression that the government wants to radicalise the movement. The executive is pouring oil on the fire. They’ve just put another coin in the jukebox and the gilets jaunes song is going to go on playing, that’s for sure.”
“Enough of violence, condemnation and arrests against the #YellowVests. Free Eric Drouet. Make peace with the leaders of the people,” he added.
German leftwing movement will
'take to streets like gilets jaunes in 2019'
The founder of a movement to unite Germany’s left wing has said it will take to the streets in 2019, inspired by the gilet jaunes protests in France.
Sahra Wagenknecht, who set up Aufstehen (Get Up) in September, said the French demonstrations encouraged her to believe it was possible to effect change without being a political party. She cited growing inequality in Germany and frustration over the government’s failure to adequately tackle it as a powerful motivating force for a protest movement.
The public face of Aufstehen, which has almost 170,000 signed-up members, Wagenknecht said she admired Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) and the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum in the UK and that she was effectively modelling the movement on them.
“We have big plans for next year, not least because we recognise when people go on to the streets to protest – especially those who have not had a political voice for many years who rediscover their voice by protesting – then political change can happen,” Wagenknecht said, speaking to the foreign press association in Berlin. “This is what we’re seeing in France right now.”
Wagenknecht was quick to stress that she did not support violence, but said she was sympathetic to those who felt the need to use it to express their anger. “I think it’s completely wrong to reduce the yellow vest movement in France to violence,” she said. “Of course there are those ready for violence amongst the protesters, but the movement is much broader than that.
“I’m clear that we don’t want any violence, but at the same time you have to recognise that it is a clear expression of pent-up anger. It doesn’t just come out of nowhere.”
The Marxist politician, who has risen to prominence through the Die Linke (Left) party, did not say what form Aufstehen’s protests would take, but said: “We will be visible on the street and in the public eye in 2019.”
Wagenknecht said Aufstehen, whose supporters include prominent German writers, political scientists, historians and actors, hoped to galvanise support from ordinary voters across the political spectrum and unite leftwing parties – particularly Die Linke and the Social Democrats (SPD), who are struggling in the polls, as well as the Green party – in a common front against the social problems dogging the whole of Europe.
“We don’t intend to compete with these parties. We want a movement that contributes to bringing these parties on the left together and instigates a new social revival,” she said.
She said the examples of France and the UK proved that initiating change outside the strictures of political parties had a better chance of success.
“It is of importance to us to remain above party politics and I believe that for many people who are becoming involved with us, this is part of our charm, as well as of the movements in France and the UK – that they don’t have to fall in line within a rigid party structure.”
Criticism of her initiative has been most vehement from within her own party, with many accusing her of risking its destruction. Die Linke was formed in 2007 after the merger of two parties, including the descendant party of the rulers of communist East Germany. Meanwhile, the SPD, amid fears for its own political survival, has accused Wagenknecht of being “on an ego trip”. Many have voiced suspicions that Wagenknecht wants to set up her own party, a claim she has repeatedly denied.
Wagenknecht said it was harder in Germany than in France to persuade ordinary people to take their protests on to the streets. “France has a completely different protest culture to that of Germany,” she said.
“Repeatedly, from the storming of the Bastille to farmer protests, there are examples of the French rising up against a fatal form of politics. But quite honestly, people in Germany, in particular those who do not feel represented by German politics, will realise that they are far more able to put pressure on the government if they go out and protest.”
She said Aufstehen was being advised by activists at the heart of Momentum.
Minds are like parachutes.
They only function when open.