I’ve used the prompt photo from Sonya’s Three Line Tales challenge but it’s such an oddly apposite one that I’ve written a piece far longer than three lines. The whole world must have seen footage of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protestors and the general perception is of a popular movement inspired by social injustice, pressing for social reforms. The reality is a lot more nuanced, and many of the original protestors have left the movement in dismay at the direction it has taken and its recuperation by extremist groups from both ends of the political spectrum with the usual racism, anti-semitism, misogyny and bigotry that tags along with so-called populist movements.
This is a different perspective to the usual courageous protestors up against police brutality. Call it provocative if you like.
photo by Jonathan Harrison via Unsplash
She meets them at the usual place, the mates, comrades, many of them the same old codgers and biddies who would have normally tut-tutted as they passed on the other side of the street, the same tight-arsed, judgmental, mean-spirited old wrecks she would have been more likely to lob an empty beer bottle at than pass the time of day with. But they’re all together in this fight against the system.
She glances at the familiar faces and nods. All in it together. Except maybe for the burnt bus shelters. The old ones don’t like that, means they can’t get to the shops. And they don’t like that there’s no market anymore on a Saturday. Gets wrecked. The women with kids didn’t like the swimming pool being closed either. And she doesn’t much like the things the old ones say about her Arab mates.
The town is already scarred from last Saturday’s protest, boarded up shop fronts, burnt bus shelters, paving stones ripped up, and she’s raring to have another crack at it, burn a few more cop cars, smash a few more cop faces. The pensioners and the women with kids at home will pretend they don’t notice, or else they’ll notice police provocation. They’re good kids, they’ll say. Most of them. Maybe not the Arabs. But most.
The chanting and taunting starts, a Molotov cocktail soars overhead and hits a parked police van, the signal to surge forward. The air is thick with tear gas, but even her smarting eyes see that there is something different this week. The cops, they’re there as usual, barring the way to the town hall, protecting the schools and the public buildings, but they’re different, all wearing yellow vests.
She’s confused. The taunting slows, becomes scattered, dies. A cop lowers his riot shield, raises his visor, moves forward out of the line. She sees his eyes. He’s scared, fragile, alone there in the street. Confusion turns to outrage. She hefts a broken bottle. He shouts.
“What gives you the right to sit in judgment? You don’t have a monopoly on humanity.”