As we keep hearing about how “reasonable” and “measured” – even “nice”! – the police are during the current Extinction Rebellion demonstrations (despite the regular footage of people being dragged across pavements by their legs), it may be useful to remind ourselves how nasty it will undoubtedly get if demonstrators don’t listen to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick (she who was in charge when her officers killed Brazilian Jean-Paul Menezes on his way to work just a few short years ago) telling us to behave ourselves. So Le Monde quotes today the French government’s response to UN criticism of police violence against the gilets jaunes, in particular their use of “defensive fire” weapons (LBD). First the denial of misuse of weapons and the characterisation of demonstrators as a violent mob:
“At no time is an LBD used against even vehement demonstrators if they have not committed physical violence, particularly against the forces of order, or caused serious damage. But in that case it is no longer a question of demonstrators but of participants in a violent and illegal gathering … The police have recourse to the LBD when it is necessary to dissuade or stop a violent or dangerous person. In terms of the weapons used, the 40mm LBD is capable of causing significant wounds if the people targeted are hit at distances of less than 3 or 10 metres … Although misuse is unfortunately possible, this does not put in question the regular use of these weapons when necessary.”
There then follows a call to the UN to respect French legal processes:
“Inasmuch as enquiries have not yet finished, it is not possible to determine today whether the people injured by the firing of these LBDs were in a situation justifying the use of these weapons or whether such use was abusive or questionable.”
So the message to the UN is not only “Don’t jump to conclusions” but, further, “Don’t interfere – we will be judges in our own case.”
Lesson for us here? The “nice” police officer is on a short fuse.
[“A aucun moment le LBD n’est utilisé à l’encontre de manifestants, même véhéments, si ces derniers ne commettent pas de violences physiques, notamment dirigées contre les forces de l’ordre ou de graves dégradations. Mais alors il ne s’agit plus de manifestants, mais de participants à un attroupement violent et illégal. »
Quatre pages sont consacrées spécifiquement à la défense du LBD, rappelant son objectif premier :
« Les policiers ont recours au LBD lorsqu’il est nécessaire de dissuader ou de stopper une personne violente ou dangereuse. » Les spécificités de l’arme sont décrites par le menu et sa dangerosité est en partie reconnue : « En fonction des munitions utilisées, le LBD 40 mm est susceptible de causer des lésions importantes si le tir atteint des personnes situées à moins de 3 ou 10 mètres. »
Les nombreuses blessures engendrées par des tirs de LBD, largement répertoriées, ne sont pourtant nullement évoquées au fil du document, qui prend des pincettes avant d’évoquer de possibles dérapages :
« Si des cas de mésusages sont toujours malheureusement possibles, (…) ils ne sauraient remettre en cause l’utilisation régulière de cette arme en cas de nécessité. »
Et d’appeler à respecter le temps judiciaire :
« Tant que les enquêtes en cours n’auront pas abouti, il n’est pas possible de déterminer, à ce jour, si les personnes blessées par des tirs de LBD l’ont été dans une situation justifiant le recours à cette arme, avec les conséquences malheureuses qui s’y attachent, ou dans une situation d’usage abusif, critiquable. »]
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has tweeted about the climate protesters (see below). A few changes need to be made to his tweet.
In the first paragraph, the phrase “but this is now taking a real toll” should be “and this is now taking a real toll …” (because that is a good, not a bad, thing); the phrase “counter-productive to the cause and our city” should be “good for the cause and our city”.
In the fourth paragraph, the last sentence (“It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this”) would be correct if it referred to government complacency about climate change. It doesn’t.
The last paragraph shows that despite saying he shares “the passion about tackling climate change of those protesting” he will do nothing to meet their demands.
So the lesson from Sadiq’s tweet is that the protesters should not “pause”, as some of them have suggested. Instead they should spread the protests further. They should not withdraw from some areas and start “negotiating” – who will they “negotiate” with? – the government is rubbishing them as lawbreakers, Khan says they’re a threat to the safety of Londoners and wants them all to go back to their day jobs, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner just wants them to behave themselves. But the government has to be forced out of its complacency, and the Labour Party must swing behind the protesters and their cause. Without equivocation. No ifs, no buts. Labour MPs should join the protests, including the front bench. Then we may all get somewhere.
I’m upset by this. Politicians will make what capital they can out of this fire. But I’m upset. I haven’t been inside the building much – it always seemed a gloomy place to me. But it’s a memorable piece of Paris architecture and it contains a lot of history, both the kind we may celebrate and the kind we would have to deplore. And it’s just down the road from where I used to work. Paris is where I always feel at home – immediately, no matter how long I’ve been away. Paris is personal, and this catastrophe feels like an injury to someone I love.
I know that if a fire broke out (and they often do) in what are called the “difficult suburbs”, where many of the city’s ethnic minorities live out their marginalised lives, the media wouldn’t be piling in to report on it and photograph it. The president wouldn’t cancel a speech and turn up, there would be no inquiry announced into its cause within the hour (as was the case with Notre-Dame). And the cause of the fire would sure as hell not be related to any renovations because there wouldn’t be any renovations, let alone ones costing millions of euros. But I’m sad, because I once lived there, and I know it a bit. I’m going to be there in the middle of May and I will visit the site of this disaster. And I will wish Paris well, from its centre to its “difficult suburbs”.
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul had a big argument with the apostle Peter: “I opposed him to his face”, he said. There is, however, nothing to suggest that Peter (in Catholic teaching, the first Vicar of Christ, or Pope) ever trod on his own toes. We’ve had to wait till the 21st century for that. Former Pope Benedict XVI (who was allowed to retire rather than wait to die in office) is poking his nose into the business of his successor, Pope Francisco. And that is to go where angels fear to tread, and Benedict seems to have stumbled into the paths of foolishness. What he has done is lay the blame for paedophilia among priests on “the revolution of 68”, reports Le Monde, because, according to Benedict, it made paedophilia “something that was permitted and appropriate” (of all the ills blamed on 1968 I don’t think I’ve heard that specific one before – but I may have lived a sheltered life). But back to Benedict:
Why has paedophilia attained such proportions? At the end of the day, the reason is the absence of God … [A] world without God can only be a world without direction and therefore a world without a notion of good and evil.”
But remember, we’re talking about the Catholic Church. Benedict must surely believe that God is present in the Church. He has to believe that, if only to justify his salary and his robes and cassock allowance when he was in office, and his pension since. And it is paedophilia tolerated, denied and covered up by the Church that concerns his successor today.
But if Benedict is right and all this happened while God was absent from the world, what was God doing to stop the abuse, the denials and the cover-ups in the domain in which he was uniquely present, the Church. Not a lot, it seems.
And Benedict? He is now trying to limit the damage the scandal has done to the Church by blaming 1968, and he says that “paedocriminality” became severe only after the second half of the 1980s. This claim, says Le Monde, is particularly questionable because “there have been numerous revelations that go back to at least the immediate post-Second World War period, as in Ireland, for example.” But what was he doing in “the second half of the 1980s” anyway when, he says, paedophilia was raging? “Before succeeding Jean-Paul II [as Pope]”, reports Le Monde, “Cardinal Ratzinger [Benedict’s real name] was fighting hard to change canon law in order to allow the guilty to be kept out of harm’s way” (i.e. protected, their crimes covered up).
Perhaps Ratzinger now regrets not resisting the temptation to interfere. Too late now though. The cat is out of the bag. Or the toothpaste is out of the tube. But I don’t think the shit will hit the fan: he’s 92, he’ll get the sympathy granted to the elderly, he’s Pope Emeritus, he won’t go to jail. But there’s not much merit in that.
 Galatians 1:11.
Here’s a translation of part of a story in the French newspaper Libération:
They call it the optimisation of security. Or how to do still more, on the cheap, with an existing system that is already not exactly lax. So on Monday the government responded to the damage caused in the Champs-Élysées during the gilet jaunes’ “Act XVIII”. The new measures, intended to stamp out these actions once and for all, have been announced from the desk of the prime minister, Edouard Philippe, at his desk in Matignon [the prime minister’s Paris residence]. He chose, incredibly, a martial tone for the occasion.
The most spectacular measures concern the banning of gilets-jaunes demonstrations “each time it is necessary” “in the areas which have been most affected”, whenever the authorities “know that extreme elements will be present willing to cause damage”. Let’s be clear, this means in fact banning all gatherings of the gilets jaunes, by its nature a very heterogeneous movement and reticent from its very beginnings to organise hand in hand with the authorities. Until now, the authorities have shown indulgence in the first hours of demonstrations but called in the forces of law and order at the first signs of conflict. After Saturday the shape of things looks quite different: if there is a publicly declared ban police and gendarmes will be ordered to question everybody present in the places named – Édouard Philippe mentioned the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Capitole Square in Toulouse, Pey-Berland Square in Bordeaux. Such an operation has already been tested, notably on the celebrated Parisian avenue during the “Demonstration for All” during the presidency of François Hollande.”
You get the picture. On a pretext of knowing the unknowable, they will deny everybody their right to protest. This, in the land of human rights. This, in the EU with its much-vaunted human-rights guarantees. We must be careful when we ask for clampdowns and bans on the people we don’t like – such bans are easily extended to people we do like and to ourselves.
It is also interesting to note that no mention is made by the French prime minister of the policeman caught looting on Saturday during the demonstration, no sign of “questioning” him for being “present in the place named” and caught looting, or charges being made, or court hearings to come. Remember, the “authorities” are after us, never after them.
 A policeman was videoed looting clothes from a shop in the Champs-Elysees during the gilets-jaunes demo. A second police officer then struck the camera operator with a truncheon. The first officer apparently nicked a Paris-St-Germain football jersey! – https://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2019/03/17/gilets-jaunes-l-igpn-saisie-apres-une-video-montrant-un-policier-prenant-des-vetements_5437508_3224.html?fbclid=IwAR0qfiwyAgpS8N1pgOjqnNEurAI1rmRNiL-O3ZkmKBFO4y_U_-XrmhxXoYo
Let’s start with the Right Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. He’s CEO of the Church of England. He’s worried about Brexit, he’s worried about poverty (not his own, you understand, he lives in a palace, so he’ll be OK; he, and the church, are worried about the growing numbers of the poor up and down the country). So what are you all going to do, Justin? Well, first, he’s not sure what the problem is, or even if there’s a problem at all. He told the church’s general synod (the church’s Annual General Meeting): “We cannot ignore the warnings that have been proffered about the possible profound impact that the next months may possibly have on the poorest of our society.” You see the uncertainty – the warnings have only been “proffered”, and they were about a “possible” profound impact on the poor which the next months may “possibly” have. Still, the church’s leaders put a motion to the synod that nobody could take exception to. It said that the voices of the poor and marginalised must be put at the heart of the nation’s concerns. Mind you, when you think about it, whatever does that mean? Ah, that nice John Sentamu, the down-to-earth, foot-washing, all-singing, all-dancing Archbishop of York, holds the key: he led the synod in prayer before they voted, asking God to “save our parliamentary democracy” and “protect the high court of parliament and all its members from partiality and prejudice”.
Of course – save the institutions, the very ones that got us into this mess in the first place. If he thinks about it (sorry, John) he might consider, next time he falls to his knees, whether he should ask God to save us from them.