On the 6th December 2018, 151 lycéen(e)s (secondary school students) were detained by police during a protest in Mantes-la-Jolie. The demonstration was a part of the wider Gilets jaunes movement which swept across France that winter, initially in opposition to a proposed rise in fuel tax, but which quickly became a movement of wider opposition to Emmanuel Macron's government. The protesting students in Mantes-la-Jolie were forced to their knees by police officers, and made to remain in stress positions outside in the cold for several hours. The following is a statement of support and solidarity from various French trade unions, political parties and organisations, in response to the march of the students' families scheduled to take place on the 8th December.
We recall those terrible images of 6 December 2018, of 151 children forced onto their knees by the forces of order in Mantes-la-Jolie, and the sight of one of the policemen saying, 'Voilà une classe qui se tient sage’ (‘This is a nice quiet class’).
We were at the height of the school students’ movement, when the Gilets jaunes uprising was taking off. It was an incredible moment which opened a new cycle of struggle, in which we still find ourselves today: at the very same time, the forgotten from all quarters – high-school students in working-class neighbourhoods on the one side (not only in Mantes!), and on the other, the Gilets jaunes, workers and the precarious, without representation by any political or trade union group. Those in power knew it was a turning point, and it took their revenge. This was what led to the appalling treatment inflicted on the children – traumatic for many – and which served as a dismal symbol of the excesses to come, of the systematic mutilation of protestors who still continued to demonstrate, Saturday after Saturday.
We, trade unions, associations, parties, political organisations, we are responding to the call of families of the high school students of Mantes-la-Jolie to march by their sides, beginning in Barbès (Paris) on 8 December.
Because, we understand all too well that behind the humiliation, the degradation, the agony – not to speak of the injustice – which daily strikes at the working-class neighbourhoods, and is the sign of a ceaseless and growing authoritarian drift, is the continued need to fight back.
We, who are dedicated to trade union struggle, to the climate struggle, to the feminist struggle, we who are against neoliberalism and finance, we see everyday democracy recede, the right to protest questioned, the imprisoning of militants and protestors made banal. Opposing this authoritarian escalation begins with joining with its victims, and with those who hold the state to account.
We will march on 8 December, beginning in Barbès , against authoritarianism and racism, and for democracy and dignity.
A list of supporters of the demonstration can be found here.