Moment of Maximum Danger for Macron
The gauntlet has been thrown down. An angry Édouard Philippe appeared on TV tonight to attempt to explain why the violence in Paris had gotten so out of hand on Saturday. His explanation: we (the government) had a strategy, but it was not properly executed. In other words, blame the prefect of Paris, Michel Delpuech, who was summarily fired. Next weekend will be different, Philippe promised. But it may not be in his power to keep that promise. At the very least, the black blocs will now have every incentive to try to circumvent whatever new police tactics are attempted. And the government has now raised the stakes to the point where it will lose face if the violence succeeds, and therefore the police will be under intense pressure to stop it. Under such circumstances, mishaps–potentially fatal mishaps–become more likely. And if there are fatalities, things could get worse.
The television coverage has made everything worse by exaggerating the size of the demonstrations and extent of the damage. There was a good deal of breakage and pillage along the length of the Champs-Elysées, but the number of demonstrators was much reduced compared with previous weeks and incidents were confined to a small area. But the intense media coverage magnified what happened, and the casseurs chose symbolic targets (such as Fouquet’s, the site of Sarkozy’s saturnalia, and a bank, and a Cartier shop).
On the positive side, the backlash against the Gilets Jaunes is growing sharper. Business people along the Champs-Elysées spoke of devastating cumulative losses, and polls indicate a sharp decrease of support for the movement, which is now portrayed as at best a witting accomplice of the anarchists. But Macron must now deliver on the explicit promise to restore order. The Grand Débat is over, the European elections are impending, and there is no further place to hide.