"The cops were surprised to see me at the station", between the first arrested and the police, calm before the chaos


Tensions between police forces and yellow vests were limited on November 17, 2018 before a rise in tension as early as November 24. – Lucas BARIOULET / AFP

  • A year ago, November 17, 2018, the "yellow vests" multiplied for the first time their actions across the territory.
  • An act 1 that has rocked citizens, politicians and law enforcement in the heart of an extraordinary movement. But how did everyone experience this special day? 20 minutes go back in time.
  • In this third episode, we went to meet the very first arrested or placed in custody. Considered as allies or a bulwark against the exhausted motorists, the police became in a few weeks, targets and the symbol of violence.

"On November 17, I went on the roundabout with my head in the air, as I would go to a party. I did not feel any particular fear or apprehension. Now, when I go to protest, I take the time to squeeze my children in my arms before. I do not know
in what state I will return, "breathed Amandine, 37," yellow vest "from the first hour" and until the last ". At the toll gates and on the outskirts of the cities, this morning of Act 1, few people have ever felt in their lives the taste of tear gas, known as the benches of a cell of a police station, or heard detonations grenades desencerclement.

"I passed for an UFO"

Gilles, an impeccably carved beard driver, is one of the very first protesters arrested. Not very talkative when it comes to evoking the facts that led him to the police station, he concedes having been "a little too vehement on his roundabout" near Toulouse, and partly clears the forces of the order: "At the moment of embarking me, the police are very considerate, they remind me my rights, everything is done in the calm". Gilles is one of 73 people in police custody during this first day. A derisory figure compared to those released the following weekends. Three weeks later, they will be 1,700 in his case.

"The first Saturday, I felt like the ugly duckling. My comrades "yellow vests" even shrieked, telling me that the police were our friends and shared our galleys: little salary and too much work. "

At the other end of France, this November 17th, not far from Paris, Jules is also arrested, a little later in the day. In the corridors of the police station where he is brought, at the end of the afternoon, no trace of "yellow vests". The young man finds himself alone: ​​"I passed a little for a UFO. Even the cops seemed surprised to see me there. Within the movement, we were a little divided about the police. But many supported them, and there was no sense of distrust at the moment. "

When Amandine evokes the police violence that enamelled the movement afterwards, her hands shake. Far, far away from the serenity of November 17, 2018: "I met two or three police officers mobilized. They were content to watch the roundabouts from a distance. We were not afraid of them and we did not pay attention. "

The calm before the conflagration

Stephane Rakowski is a biker policeman in a security and intervention company in the Paris region. Like Amandine, he describes a "good-natured" atmosphere during this act 1. "When there are tensions, we are called to help reinforce Paris. That day, we stayed in our department, we did a little surveillance on the roundabouts. It was calm. Moreover, no particular instructions had been received, "recalls the member of the Alternative Police union.

Like him, 2,500 to 3,000 officials are mobilized that day. Their main missions: secure the official buildings and supervise the 200 points of blockage constituted by the "yellow vests". At Nantes, Troyes or the Champs Elysees in Paris, some clashes erupt. The Minister of the Interior evokes the same evening a "serious assessment": a person died on a dam in Savoie, hit by a vehicle, 227 people are injured, including 6 seriously.

A relocation of the demonstrations

In Perpignan, Luc, 42, shows up with the shirt of Barca under his yellow vest. It evokes a Saturday without history with the police: "On the 17th, our only fear was the cars that could run on the roundabouts. So, we were happy to have the police at our side, we felt protected. This cashier continues: "It was Macron against us, motorists dangerous against us, but not the police against us. "

Relations between police and "yellow vests" will deteriorate in a few weeks. "On November 17, the overwhelming majority of" yellow vests "were on the roundabouts, often on the outskirts of the agglomerations, says Francois Boulo, the lawyer of several protesters. Then the police were instructed to break these blocking points, which led the demonstrators to regroup in the city centers. Maxime, a police officer mobilized from the beginning of the movement, confirms: "From the moment when the demonstrations became urban, we saw grafted to the processions of violent individuals".

"We even shared our barbecue"

Violence contained in the very first act that resulted in rare reports of police violence. On November 17, journalist David Dufresne is not behind his computer. "I did not start reporting to the Ministry of the Interior on social networks until December 4," said one who has become a real whistleblower for protesters. Subsequently added by Dufresne, five cases of violence against protesters were reported in Quimper, Somain, Passy, ​​Bordeaux and Reunion. The videos of wounded in blood, they, multiply from November 24 on Facebook groups of "yellow vests".

On the eve of the anniversary of the 17th, Luc, the Perpignanese, think of this first day with nostalgia: "On our roundabout, we even shared our barbecue with police who were on the way. One said to oneself: "as much to make allies of them, they too must be tired of Macron". When I think about it, it was a different atmosphere. I had even taken my 5 year old daughter. Today is out of the question. "

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