Flip side of the coin

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.”



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

24 thoughts on “Flip side of the coin”

    1. Most of us are getting heartily sick of having some yob with a big rock acting as the mouthpiece of the majority.
      I saw there was a lot of writing based on the notion of Gilets Jaunes but I’d be surprised if any of it was from France. Funny how so many of the pieces focused on her eye shadow.

  1. Very interesting and thoughtful. Well done. Mind you having been caught up in a gilets j. protest and missed my fight home I’m not in a sympathetic mood towards them right now…

    1. Most people aren’t. They have been treated with great indulgence, mainly because you’d need to get the army out to unblock every bloody roundabout and motorway exit, but it’s mob rule, however sympathetic you might feel towards individuals. And it’s got very ugly.

  2. Very well written Jane. Violent mob rule is never right, no matter the cause. The rule of law has to prevail, or civilized society will slide down a slippery slope. Protest peacefully in numbers for your cause.

    1. We live in a democracy. This movement started out blocking supermarkets, motorway exits, smashing traffic radars without asking anyone else if they minded being prevented doing their shopping or leaving the motorway. It’s intrinsically anti-democratic and we all know where that leads.

  3. Great peace of writing Jane. I agree with you that the mob can so quickly get out of hand and high handed too. Soon they are interfering with every bodies freedom. 💜💜

    1. There is enormous social injustice here, but it seems as though the protesters aren’t trying to change the system, they just want no taxes, cheaper petrol, more hospitals, higher wages, fewer immigrants, no EU, no ecological measures… The government can be criticised in the same way any government can, but this one is no worse than any other and it was democratically elected.

  4. It’s so easy to manipulate people with legitimate grievances, so easy to destroy. The really difficult thing is to lead, and to help build something better. (K)

    1. So true. The people who started this movement, about raised diesel tax to encourage people to dump diesel and change to greener energy (with government subsidies) are petrol heads who run a FB group for car enthusiasts. You get the idea. They’ve disappeared now and nobody’s in charge.

  5. This is an important piece Jane, it is so true that the world sees this as a fight for injustice and social change but that is far from the truth after all these months. Two weeks ago there were 8 different demonstrations here in Paris, from 5 different groups! It is no wonder that the square outside Hotel du Ville was called place de Greve, place of strike. All it takes is for one person to stand up for something and the rioters are right behind them, and, as the citizens here have no fear of raising their voice about all and everything, it means there is always a place for the mob to bind, bond and bash and in the end, no one remembers what the voice was originally saying.

    1. I’ve seen a lot of silly commentaries from people who are hoodwinked by the social media presentation as the GJs. The sad thing is that the real malaise of a society where the gulf between rich and poor is increasing will be ignored because of the ineptitudes and exaggerations of the movement’s so-called mouthpieces.

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