Smashed face of the Marianne statue inside the Arc de Triomphe.
Jonathan Miller, in the Spectator:
Emmanuel Macron is undoubtedly brilliant. He won all the glittering academic prizes. He had a supersonic ascent into the stratosphere of the French civil service. He even did a spell as a courtier with David de Rothschildâ€™s investment bank, before ascending to minister of the economy under FranÃ§ois Hollande, and then winning the most glittering prize of all, the presidency of the republic, aged 39Â¾.
But his hubris, arrogance and almost autistic detachment from the French in the street is in a class with Marie Antoinette. Except that this time around, the courtier whispers, ‘Mr President, the people cannot afford diesel.’ To which the cloth-eared Macron has, in effect replied: ‘Let them buy Teslas.’
At the blockade on the roundabout outside my local Super U supermarket, la France en bas is not impressed. There has been little violence here, though the local anarchists did attack the village petrol station, putting it out of action for two days. As of this morning, though, the main A9 autoroute between southern France and Spain has been closed for more than 72 hours. There are elements to the protest that are both surreal and terrifying. At the Pezenas exit, the gilets have moved a piano onto the carriageway, and are entertaining the stranded lorry drivers. At Narbonne, just down the highway, a gilet armed with a front end loader picked up a burning car, lifted it high into the air, and dropped it on the toll station. The ungovernable slums around the major cities in France are on the edge. The police are exhausted. Be sure of this, what is happening in France is not over.
There are elements to this affair that remain unclear if not murky. Who are the gilets? What do they want? Can this really be a spontaneous revolt, triggered by a posting on Facebook, provoked by increased taxes on fuel? Christophe Castaner, who has been minister of the interior for only a few weeks, and is already one of the most hated men in France, has rushed to blame the violence on the extreme right. There is not the slightest evidence of this. As far as I can tell, the rightists spent the weekend watching the news channels and posting acerbic comments on social media. ‘Iâ€™m running out of popcorn,’ one delighted Marine Le Pen supporter told me from the safety of his armchair, as he revelled in the humiliation of Macron.
In Paris, there were many people wearing gilets jaunes, but were they really gilets jaunes? . . .These protests have been hijacked by political and criminal opportunists, but Macron is making a fatal error if he thinks he can brush off the concerns of my neighbours, who are handing out biscuits to passing motorists, most of whom have posed a gilet jaune on the dashboard in solidarity.
“Attempts to negotiate with this Medusa-like movement are not going to be straightforward. The movement has no leader. Its demands are inchoate or naive. . . But French people are not just fed up with Macron, they are fed-up with politicians generally.”