Is Macron’s France hurtling towards further social unrest?


Police brutality against minorities combined with President Emmanuel Macron’s collision course with Muslims is a tinderbox.

With 2021 approaching, France is going through a number of changes. Ever since the appointment of right-winger Gerald Darmanin, a former ally of Nicolas Sarkozy, President Emmanuel Macron has been orbiting to the right by enhancing and defending police brutality – as he has shown the world over the past few days.

Macron created his own party from scratch in 2016, becoming a presidential candidate for En Marche (On the Move) in 2017. The movement was initially progressive.

President Emmanuel Macron, when elected in 2017 was extremely popular but has faced numerous challenges since November 2018 – The Gilets Jaunes movement, the rise of a Marine Le Pen led far-right during local elections, economic challenges, unemployment and Covid-19.

He has been facing widespread protests almost every week for with the Yellow Vests and Unions demonstrating against his Pension Reforms, which has led to violence.

Racism in France is a growing problem, one that has always been there, but has only been thrust further into the limelight under Macron. Muslims, Black people, and ethnic minorities suffer every day.

The recent terror attacks have laid bare the tensions within France. To top it off, tensions between France and Muslim-majority nations was exposed when Emmanuel Macron chose to defend the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and made incendiary statements about ‘Islam in crisis’.

Macron has not managed to unite the country but rather divided it. Muslims feel threatened.

The turning point of President Macron’s presidency came in the summer when there was a cabinet reshuffle and Macron appointed Gerald Darmanin – former Minister of Public Action and Accounts from 2017 to 2020 – the Minister of Interior. Darmanin was the former director of Nicolas Sarkozy’s primary election campaign in 2016.

By appointing a ‘Sarkozyste’  he shifted drastically to the right. This was a dangerous move.

Gerald Darmanin is a toxic politician and some compare him to Nicolas Sarkozy, who was Jacques Chirac’s Minister of Interior.

Most recently Darmanin said it was necessary to protect the identity of law enforcement officers who are at risk of harassment, threats and violence so a law was proposed to outlaw the filming of police officers. Critics say that without such images, none of the incidents which took place over the past week would have come to light – and that law has now been shelved. But what’s important is that such a proposal was seriously gathering steam in France.

Michel Zecler, a music producer and the director of Black Gold Corp Studios was physically attacked by three policemen last Saturday evening on November 21st around in Paris. The officers accused him of intending to “take their weapons” and of “rebellion.”

The images published by the online news site Loopsider, showed the music producer, being repeatedly assaulted in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris.

Since the video was posted on the website on November 26, it caused quite a stir in the French media. The investigations against Michel Zecler were dropped after the images emerged and were widely circulated online.

“Without these images, I would be in prison,” he told Loopsider.

Some people in France are describing the incident as the country’s George Floyd moment.

The beating of Zecler risks further aggravating racial tensions in France, with allegations of repeated police brutality against Black, ethnic minorities and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement.

There is still a lot of anger where George Floyd’s killing has revived calls for justice for Adama Traore, a 24-year-old Black man who died in police custody in 2016. Traore famously said “I’m suffocating” repeatedly while being arrested.

Is Zecler’s beating the straw that broke the camel’s back? When the video was published by Loopsider, President Macron said that it was an “unacceptable aggression.”

Macron and his government must act quickly before tensions and violence as we saw last Saturday continue. He has asked his ministers to come up with suggestions on how to find a bond of trust between the police and the population.

Two years after the start of the Yellow Vest movement, the government can’t afford to waste time on the issue of police brutality. It is now an extremely charged issue at guiding the news agenda.

But right now we know that seventeen months before the presidential elections of 2022, President Emmanuel Macron is tilting to the right with his new security law and doesn’t seem to be turning back.

On December 9th, Macron’s ministers will present legislation that the French President hopes will strengthen secular values and combat “Islamist separatism” – proposed measures to combat “radical Islamism” and terrorism.

Local officials will be given extra-legal powers to combat extremism while money will be invested in education. The Islamic separatism bill is widely viewed as Islamophobic.

One thing is for sure, if Macron doesn’t change, there will be widespread demonstrations in France and the ‘malaise social‘, or unrest, is likely to worsen.


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