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Macron's visit to the Agricultural Show turns into chaos in Paris

Photo: Christophe Petit Tesson Agence France-Presse French President Emmanuel Macron caresses a Norman cow named Oreillette at the 60th Salon de l'Agriculture in Paris.

Sylvie Maligorne – Agence France-Presse in Paris

February 25, 2024

  • Europe

Whistles, boos, shoving, the traditional visit of the French president to the Paris Agricultural Show is often the occasion for an unfiltered confrontation with the agricultural world, but never to the point of turning into chaos like Saturday when Emmanuel Macron came.

The context of great anger among French farmers suggested a complicated visit. But from there to imagine law enforcement in helmets and shields in hand trying to contain angry farmers, never.

“I have never seen this,” the national secretary of the police union Alliance des CRS and former head of security groups for the president and prime minister, Johann Cavallero, told AFP. “When it gets to this point, the situation is out of control.”

A connoisseur of visits by high-ranking personalities to the Salon admitted his surprise at the “lack of anticipation”: “incomprehensible”, according to him.

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Usually, mobile forces are deployed around the Salon. “This is the protocol for the head of state”, it is also the case for other political figures such as the Prime Minister, confirmed Mr. Cavallero.

Everything went wrong after 8am. Emmanuel Macron was in a room on the 1st floor of the Parc des Expositions with agricultural union representatives.

Paroxysmal tension

At that time, farmers from one of the majority agricultural unions, the FNSEA, and from another union, the Rural Coordination, forced the entrance gates.

Gates guarded by the Salon's private security, as Mr. Cavallero and two police sources assured AFP.

“For several years, responsibility for guarding the gates has been entrusted to private security personnel,” said the CRS Alliance manager.

Four companies of CRS, police officers specialized in supervising demonstrations, had been mobilized since 6 a.m. around the Parc des Expositions. And two others came as reinforcements in the morning. There were also mobile gendarme companies. Two forces that are used to working together in law enforcement operations.

“There was a mistake with crossing the entry barriers. Afterwards, everyone kept order inside. And there arose a problem of coordination between the forces,” analyzes Mr. Cavallero.

On Saturday, there were plainclothes police officers from the Paris police headquarters, police officers from CRS 8 (the unit specializing in operations to combat urban violence and others), CRS , mobile gendarmes, mounted law enforcement…

“The CRS were prohibited from using tear gas because of the animals,” several members of the police told AFP.

For several hours, intermittently, there were farmers violently pushing the police who themselves were pushing them back vigorously, in the middle of panicking animals.

“It’s a stroller. We cannot do anything else in a closed environment such as the Salon,” explained the police unionist, adding that if the police had put on their helmets, it was to protect themselves from the various projectiles thrown by the farmers (clods of earth , eggs, etc.).

Never has an inauguration of the Salon by a head of state taken place more than four hours after the scheduled time, with the main hall, that of the animals, closed to the public at opening.

“On Saturday, the tension was at a paroxysmal level,” summed up a Salon regular.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116