Un pays qui se tient sage (2020) - full transcript

A group of citizens question and confront their views on the social order, and the legitimacy of the use of violent police force.

Is that me?

It's me alright. OK...

Is there sound?

So I can prepare myself.

My legs are shaking.

There's sound.

I filmed as they were charging us.

I started filming really fast.

Live from Rennes.

That's great, motherfuckers!

I remember trying to get up.

When I saw this,
I realized I wasn't trying to get up.

For several weeks, some people,

- I'm not saying you -

completely sincere people,
have expressed their convictions.

But some decided

to infiltrate and distort that.

They have destroyed,


assaulted the police.

Meaning the people who defend you.

Your words "repression
and police violence"

are unacceptable
in a constitutional state.

My name is Marie-Laure Leroy.
I'm at the hospital,

and I don't know what time it is.

I obviously havent slept.

I'm the mother
of an injured...

Your mother?


Mr. Macron,

while you're being clever
in some gym,

soliloquizing hours on end,

because you clearly enjoy
talking alone...

your henchmen, Mr. Macron,

are mutilating our youth.

Those young people presented no risk.

How many more mutilated youth
will it fake

before you realize

that leading a country

does not mean perching atop
the verticality you praise.

It means leaning toward people,

and really listening to what they say.

I'm not angry, and bear no hatred.

You are worthy neither of my anger

nor my hatred.

I'm just sickened.


"The state claims the monopoly
of the legitimate use of physical force."

Max Weber.

It's funny, because...

It was at the heart of my first book.

It was what I was criticizing.

Weber doesn't discuss the monopoly
of weapons, the state has that.

He discusses the monopoly
of legitimate physical force.

He was seeking a way to link

violence to its legitimacy.

So it's a game of scale,

of proportion
between violence

and the legitimacy
of using that violence.

What are you doing?

You are crazy!

For us, the United Nations,

the state has the monopoly and
the legitimacy of maintaining public order.

But does that make
the violence legitimate?

That's another question.

When the French government claims
there is no police violence,

though testimony,
videos, and images exist;

when we're told violence is legitimate
in response to violent demonstrations,

that's when we get
to the real question.


Wanna use your non-lethal?

Where are you going?

They're looking for us.

You can't shoot like that!

- What's with you?
- Nothing.

See you!


Open up!

It's open!

Stop! It's not me!

It's not me!

I would say legitimate.


Maintaining public order

is among the fundamentals

in Max Weber's
"Politics as a Vocation".

It's an old text, from 1919,

that examines violence
in the balance of power.

It was inspired by Trotsky,

who said the state is based on force.

Hannah Arendt disagreed.

For her,
the consubstantial principle of power

isn't violence or force.
It's different.

This policing system,
its approach to law enforcement,

and the orders given,
are inherently political.

What's at stake is politics.

It's politics vs. politics.

But everything we see in the speeches

is depoliticized,
as if on the one hand...

It's either:
"Those horrible demonstrators

break windows,
so we reestablish order."

And that removes the political.

Or it's:
"Those bad cops!"

But all of that is political.
We have to repeat that this system,

this practice of [aw enforcement,

is a political choice by the government.

To arms citizens!

Form your battalions!

March, march!

Our job is to make sure
you don't smash anything,

whatever your motivations.

Whether you're far right, far left,
far center,

a millionaire, or working class,
that's not the issue.

Do we let you riot and ransack,

do we let you bum people,
mutilate or kill people?

Yes or no?
The legitimate power decides.

To maintain order
you protect institutions,

before businesses
and individuals.

- There's a hierarchy.
- Absolutely.

Demonstrators might feel insecure,

“The police aren't here to protect us."

The police are there above all
to protect institutions.

We're in a republic,
but a monarchy would be the same.

We're taking the street
and we'll be right there


The Arc de Triomphe

is the symbol
of the Napoleonic Empire.

It is the very symbol
of consecrated violence.

Its state violence.

Shields everyone!


We have an image of a monument
that celebrates a revolutionary uprising

with police running after demonstrators

demanding the right
to occupy the public thoroughfare.

It is a fundamental difficulty
for a republic

to break from its revolutionary roots.

The gilets jaunes surged into
that revolutionary mythology.

It's very active!

They mobilize resistance to oppression,
for the right of insurrection.

Everyone is struggling
with their own republican mythology.

With a very conflictual logic,
and one of breaking away.

No cause

justifies attacking law enforcement,

looting businesses,

burning public or private buildings,

threatening passers-by,

or defiling the Arc de Triomphe.

Those guilty of that violence

don't want change,
they want chaos.

They betray the causes
they claim to serve,

and manipulate them.

They will be identified

and held accountable for their acts
before the law.

When people say the police
use legitimate force

- if it's proportionate,
absolutely necessary, etc. -

that means it's a legal use of force:

the police can lawfully use force.

There's a confusion with
the political notion of legitimacy,

which is the moral right to govern
granted by the citizens to the state.

And that's different from lawfulness.
That's the problem now in France.

The Minister can say.
It's legal to use weapons

that are classified as weapons of war
even if they are not always deadly.

It's legal to use those weapons,
so there's no problem.

I'm not shocked that the state
needs the monopoly on violence.

It's a condition of democracy.

It's a condition of shared well-being.

It's a condition of a modern republic.

What makes democ-tatorship,

and a logic of suspicion take hold,

is when the legal

is erased in favor of the illegitimate.

What's at stake here is that
the legal violence of the police

is increasingly crippled
by a suspicion of illegitimacies,

in the plural, the multiple.

Those illegitimacies
have been piling up for decades.

Guys, be careful.

Get out of the way!

I cant believe it.
Go for it with your truncheon!

Get out of here!

Get the fuck out! That's enough!

Fuck off!

There have been
a few rare moments in history

when a country has had
what we might call

- I don't like the expression -
"a republican police."

That means
there are times when we accept

not the verticality of power
but its horizontality.

That is to say we're united

because we form a country,
a political community,

but we're divided

because it is the very nature
of democracy to admit social division.

Division in pluralism,
in the multiple.

So if we accept that,

police should serve the multiple,
be the guarantee of the multiple.

We confuse the state and the police
because the police is national.

In most other countries
it isn't national.

So in France,

that facilitates confusion between

the central government
and the central police.

It's an error of interpretation
both historically and geographically.

The police developed with cities,
not with the state.

"Polis" means city.

In France,
the police became the national police

via a nationalization
carried out by Vichy in 1942.

That's the origin
of the French national police.

It's a reinterpretation
of the history of the local police.

What we might call
a republican police

is at the service of the people,
not of the state.

Can I have your number, please?

Try directory assistance!

Why are the plates...?

Nice move!

I hadn't noticed that.


Their number plates are hidden!


Why are the plates hidden?

Fucking incredible.

The police force is clearly
becoming increasingly politicized.

It's the state's fire brigade.

But I don't think the police
should serve the state.

We must disconnect the police
from the authority of the state.

I'm a judicial police investigator,
and my boss is the Minister.

You're defending
the rich and Macron!

Only the rich and Macron,

nothing else!

Shame on you!

You beat us up in 68!

Our brothers protested the war in Algeria!
They would have beaten you up!

You spend your lives beating the shit
out of everyone who demonstrates

for their freedom
and their social rights!

You're parasites on the nation,
nothing more!

All of our social rights...

You defend the privileged
and the bosses,

that's all you do, nothing else.

Not anything else!

In 40 you served the Germans.
That's what you did historically.

Go ahead and make a fist.
Shame on you!

That's a nice yellow vest.

I'm a gilet jaune!
But not that kind of gilet jaune.

We're not on the same side, ma'am.

That is exactly
the verticality of power.

He is in the camp of authority and force
and she is not.

The illustration

is exemplary.

You OK?

- He's bleeding!
- Medic!

Call them. We cant.

you've got your hands full!

Fall back!

He's bleeding...

It's not the role of the police officer
to know if there's state violence,

if people respond with violence...

We live in a republic,
not a totalitarian regime.

There's no hold-up of power,
whoever you may have voted for.

We serve the Republic.

You say: "We live in a republic,
therefore we respect order."

But my question
is much more fundamental,

and you could ask it yourself

in terms of ethics and deontology.

"What order
do the forces of order protect?"

The tall guy with his am up,
that's my husband.

It's definitely him.

He's six foot six.

I'm next to him,
or maybe a little ahead.

You're all alone, man.
Why are you doing that?

Nothing at all.
All I remember is the blow.

And then my husband in the distance
saying: "Mell What happened?

"Get up! Mell"
That's all there is.

See what you've done!

Clear the way.

They award the violent.

They give medals and bonuses
to the most violent cops.

So only the state
has the right to be violent.

It's violent through its police
and through its reforms.

When it reforms housing benefits,
it doesn't affect the richest,

it affects the poorest.

They get help
to pay their rent,

because they subsist
on basic welfare.

The prefect in Amiens said

that if no emergency housing
is available,

it's because asylum seekers
are in the area.

That's violent.

It's violent hearing that.

It's violent to see people
who've always worked scrounging in bins.

It's violent to come to Paris

where people sleep in the street
beside merrymakers having drinks.

That's violent.

The French state is violent.
Their words and reforms are violent.

The response is violent.
They think we're violent?


What have you done for us?

The employment bonus?

60% of minimum wage workers qualify.
That's violent.

When the president announces:
"I'm raising the minimum wage 100."


It's violent to be lied to
by your president.

To those who focus
on the violence of rioters,

who criticize
the violence of demonstrators,

I'd ask them to criticize
the violence of the state, too.

When our dear president says
there's nothing that cant be fixed

in what happened to the gilets jaunes,
that's not violent?

My cervical vertebrae
will never grow back. Ever.

Neither will Antoine's hand.

What you've lost, you'll spend
along time fighting to get it back.

How long does trauma last?

One year? Two years?
Ten? A hundred?

To the end of our lives?
That's violent.

Waking up 8 times a night
in a sweat, that's violent.

Being afraid is violent.

I was never afraid before.

It's violent.

Only the state
has the right to be violent.

When we respond to that violence,

we go to jail.

We risk losing our children.

We risk our jobs,
our lifestyle.

Even if our lifestyle isn't great,

and I'm in the red
by the 10th of the month,

I still don't want to be in the red
by the 2nd of the month.

Yes, only the state
has the right to be violent.

Or at least it's legitimate.

If we quote Hannah Arendt,

the power has to be legitimate.

There is no legitimate force
without legitimate power.

That power must be based on consent,

on shared values,

on shared interests.

When whole populations are marginalized,

in an increasingly unequal
and harsh system,

power loses its legitimacy.

Power must come from the community,
from consent, based on shared values.

Where are those shared values now,

when the economy no longer obeys
elementary principles of humanity?

But that's a problem
of a political nature.

We accept, as citizens,

being subjected to such violence.

But in exchange for greater safety.

- That's the deal.
- I agree.

- It's what we call the social contract.
- It's Rousseau.

And what happens
when we no longer have that safety?

When the state no longer protects us?

Not just physically.

The right to safety
isn't just physical protection.

In time immemorial, maybe.

It's also social,

it's also about health.

What happens when one protagonist
no longer respects the deal?

Does it still have the right
to be violent?

- Holy shit!
- Are you OK?

Wow! You've got a huge hole!

How big is it?

How big?

Damn that goes fast!

Ill show how many people
are here.

What's that weapon you have?

I filmed a policeman
15 minutes before the impact.

We asked: "Flash-balls aren't
allowed anymore, are they?"

He said: "It's a non-lethal LBD40."
He saw I was filming.

It's much more precise.

- Why are we getting hit in the head?
- Simple.

We're not gonna wait to get hit!
It's just human!

Someone shoots at you,
you don't say. "Go on, shoot me!"

Recovery position!
Put her in the recovery position!

Should we call an ambulance?

Yes, call an ambulance!

I don't recognize my own country.
And they are the leaders.

They run the police.

They should take care of the people,
yet they give the orders to mutilate.

Carrying out those orders is bad, too.

I imagine the guy
who's there to feed his family,

who's stupidly doing a job

when he's aiming at me,

and who hits my eye,
knowingly or not.

For him it's about his conscience.

I don't know if he thinks
about my face blowing up

in the evening,
as he kisses his kids.

I forgive him.

It helps me.
It keeps me from...

indulging some hatred
that would ruin my spirit.

But those who give the orders,
and who know they're leading their troops

to commit slaughter...
I cant forgive that.

Some people use as a pretext
that they speak for the people.

But which people?

They are in fact only the mouthpieces
of a hateful mob.

When they attack elected officials,
law enforcement, journalists,

Jews, foreigners, and homosexuals,

that is simply a negation of France.

Throughout the gilets jaunes
demonstrations, we have heard

declarations in the media,
and from a whole range of voices,

describing the crowd
in animal terms.

It's old rhetoric.

Of the French Revolution,
Gustave Le Bon said

that a man in a crowd
only listens to his passion,

loses his reason,

and deep down
he becomes a ferocious beast.

Those images are revolting.

That horde, honestly...

This is harsh,
but when I see those people

who want to attack, injure,
or even kill my colleagues...

Guys who attack colleagues,
who are just defending themselves!

Will the police be accused again
of being violent?

What did the police do
to deserve that?

Were they violent?
Not a fucking thing.

“National Police" on their uniforms,

and those cowards picking on them.

It's outrageous.

There's only one place
for people like that: prison.

They shouldn't be anywhere else.

What I see
is that they are grossly outnumbered.

There are five motorcycle cops.

And there's still traffic,
so it's a mess.

Part of the street
is still open to traffic.

At the very least, there's uncertainty.

We see the crowd keeping its distance.

Is the crowd afraid?
Are people afraid of the police?

The official draws his weapon
very belatedly.

He draws it there.

Do the people,
through the gas, after dark,

see the drawn weapon?
It was only out for a second.

But they don't want to isolate them,

they don't want to separate them,

they don't want to kill them.

They don't want to butcher them,
though they could.

It's within reach.

It's when they are sure
the police can get away,

when they're all on their motorbikes,

that they suddenly start
running after them.

When the officers are almost down,

knees on the ground,
righting their vehicles,

only a few people go after them.

We see violence, of course.
But we also see restraint of violence.

It's glaring how the violence
is ritualized on both sides.

No one wants to overturn the situation.

As if both the police
and the gilets jaunes

were satisfied that,
in the end,

the state, embodied by its officials,
retain the monopoly on violence.

I am among those who think the police,
in a certain way,

are also victims.

Differently, but victims also

of this dramatic shift

in the way law enforcement
has been managed over the years.

When a young officer loses it
because he can't take it anymore,

I understand that mistakes happen.

The problem is that
the nature of the police violence,

its frequency,
its repetition and the images

clearly show
- every French citizen has seen this -

that this isn't an accumulation

of random and unfortunate

freak outs or isolated incidents.

This is the mechanical,
deliberate consequence

of excessive, disproportionate,
and unaccountable violence.

Last warning!
We will use force!

As you walk and talk,
you hear the "booms",

you see the flames,
the smoke everywhere,

and you think:
"This isn't the kind of demo I wanted.

"This is not it.
This is a guerilla war.

It's crazy."

Copy that.
Well leave it.

They're sick!

I don't know what's in my eyes,
but it's bad.

They gassed us like crazy.

They're gonna arrest us.

Just put your hands up.
They can arrest us, we're innocent.

That's when the police came in.

Right before, Max told everyone
to put their hands up:

"We didn't do anything,
so we're not at risk.

"They can take us away.
They'll have nothing against us,

no problem."

Maxime and I are right there.

With the backpack.

You can only see him,
on top of me,

you only see my legs and sneakers.

I won't let you go.

On your feet!

We didn't do anything, Sir!

At the exit,
there was like a tunnel of riot police.

I screamed:
"Don't touch my boyfriend!"

I could clearly see that...

everyone was getting bludgeoned.

Don't touch my boyfriend!
Don't touch him!

Don't touch him!

- Clear out!
- Stop!

Stop kicking me!

So clear out!

I did! I'm in the street!

It's OK!

- Wanna see my card?
- Fuck your card!

Don't talk to me that way.

That's enough, dammit!

To employ violence like that,

the riot police have to have rules.

Meaning necessity.

Here we ask: is it necessary
to bludgeon people on the ground

who are not dangerous.

I have no doubt
that it's not necessary

and the violence is not legitimate.

I see a lot of anger.

I see a lot of anger,
and law enforcement is not about anger.

If there's misconduct,
it's punished...

This isn't misconduct!

Holding someone down
and beating them over the head?

We don't need context.

The people are on the ground.

Is that bad or is it normal?

Bad or normal?

What I'm saying...

The guy's on the ground
screaming "Stop!"

You can see him!
Several cops are beating him.

Is that normal?

Every deviant action must be
investigated and sanctioned.

That's clear.

Benoit, is that excessive?

When you see the images,
you can indeed wonder

what really happened.

We can see!

In these images,
what happened is shocking.


Our fellow officers!

They're being attacked.

We have to send reinforcements.

Those motherfuckers.

One man is down, look.

Those assholes.

Fuck, they should shoot!

A couple of slugs would do it.

The three regimes of power are fusing.

The feudal regime
of protecting institutions:

the Elysée Palace is a fortified castle
that mustn't be touched.

The lord's domain,
surrounded by a moat of cops.

The disciplinary regime
is going full speed:

you pile on the tear gas,
the sublethal weapons.

You attack, strike, repress.

And the regime of control
doing prevention,

collecting information,
determining possible intentions,

studying social networks.

All three regimes
are active simultaneously.

It's no longer
some relatively subtle control,

identifying dangerous elements
and controlling the stadium.

They're deploying everything at once.

I don't like calling it totalitarian
because it's too easy to say,

but it is totalizing to activate
the three regimes simultaneously.

We mobilized everything
against them.

We mobilized the police
in great quantity.

We mobilized the judicial apparatus,

also in incredible ways,

with a huge increase
in immediate trials.

That hasn't been done in ages.

Immediate trials for demonstrators
to that extent is unprecedented.

Trials, prison sentences...

Enough is enough!

Trials that are practically bogus,

along with the massive use
of preventive arrest

before any participation
in a demonstration

such as we haven't seen in France
since World War II.

Something has exploded

into the public,
police, and judicial arenas,

whence an enormous pressure,
with thousands of people in custody.

In custody why?

Some people had weapons, OK.

But in most cases, what for?

People were put in police camps,

in police custody for 24 or 48 hours

to keep them from demonstrating.

It was a massive misuse of procedures

to curtail the fundamental rights
of freedom of assembly

and expression.

With unintended consequences
for the police force...

- For everyone!
- Absolutely.

The police don't want to hold
all these people. They can't cope.

The police are being sacrificed
by politicians.

The police and the law were sacrificed

- especially the law -

when the state of emergency
became part of common law.

- Symbolically, it was terrible.
- Terrible.

There's a well-behaved class!

We should show their teachers.
They've never seen anything like it.

Eyes forward!

They say it themselves:
we're not even sub-citizens,

or second-class citizens.

They say it all the time:
we're nothing.

Not heard, not seen,

not respected.

We're humiliated,
we're harassed.

On that day, they weren't seen

as young students demonstrating

because they feared the new reforms,

and what they meant

for their future.

They were seen as rioters.

There's a well-behaved class.

I don't dispute
when the police say

the skirmishes
were violent beforehand.

But you cannot end up here.
If you do...

The job was done badly.
It's unacceptable.

My son was on his knees
for three and a half hours,

hands on his head.

I dare anyone to spend five minutes
in those conditions.

Then we can talk.

There's a well-behaved class.

The policeman him self is filming.

It shows they're acting

with impunity.

He thinks: "Hey, I'll film it!

"Il make a sarcastic joke.

"Il laugh with my pals.

I'll share it,
and no one will do anything."

And that makes you think.

We know the extent of it,
but here we can see

they really feel
they have complete impunity.

This is no longer about the necessity
of the circumstances.

It's no longer a balanced negotiation

between dignity and necessity.
This is cruelty.

The image tips

just with those words.

"Ah, there's a well-behaved class."

What's unjustified and unjustifiable

is the spectacle of enjoyment,
the sharing of enjoyment.

It's unacceptable.

What was even more violent
was saying:

This is a message.

Memorize it well.
It means we're taking control.

Tome, it's practically saying:

We're back to a disciplinary regime.
And that's fine.

We're going to use
a repressive approach again, get ready.

We're heading toward a period

not of control
but of discipline.

Bourdieu says

for the state to successfully employ
physical violence,

there must be symbolic violence.

Here we see very clearly

that the police

is claiming a monopoly of control
over an age group,

ora section of our youth,

which is the youth
from the housing estates.

They can only access public education
on their knees.

That's what the images
tell us.

That violence has been inflicted
for 30 years.

Here they become aware

that they live in a territory,

a territory for testing

police violence.

It brings to mind Adama Traoré,
Lamine Dieng,

and Ali Ziri.

People who died
as a result of police operations.

This issue used to be confined

to extremely radical circles
or the working-class neighborhoods

that were laboratories
for police violence

and emergency laws.

- Laboratory, that's rubbish...
- Absolutely!

- We were guinea pigs for...
- That's harsh!

I say what I think. You don't
make concessions, and neither do I.

We were guinea pigs
for emergency laws

and for the policing doctrine

that is wreaking havoc

everywhere that wasn't affected before.

White people in the periphery
were unaffected before.

They've noticed now,
and police violence has become central.

As a police institution,
you cannot maintain

the status quo.

At some point,
it'll blow.

We know that violence.

I was born in my neighborhood,
and I'll die there.

I love that neighborhood.
It's in my DNA.

I'll never leave Amiens Nord.

But it's become commonplace.

Violence against
kids in the housing estates is normal.

They deserve it.
The estates should be pressure washed.

We didn't ask for it. We requested
public housing and they put us there.

"There are three kinds of violence.

“The first, mother of all others,
is institutional violence.

"It legalizes and perpetuates

"oppression, and exploitation.

"It crushes and eliminates
millions of people

"in its silent and well-oiled cogs.

"The second is revolutionary violence,

"which is born of the will
to abolish the first.

"The third is repressive violence,

"which stifles the second

"by making itself the helper
and accomplice of the first violence,

the one that causes all the others."

Rémi Fraisse,
killed by a police grenade.

October 25, 2014

"There is no worse hypocrisy

"than only calling
the second one Violence',

"while pretending to forget
the first one, that gives it life,

and the third one,
that kills it."

Hélder Câmara,
Brazilian Archbishop.

To Malik Oussekine, student, aged 22,

beaten to death on December 6, 1986

...By the police

Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, electrocuted
in a power station after being chased by police.

October 27, 2005

Zineb Redouane,
fatally struck by a tear gas grenade

Marseille, December 1, 2018

But it's Music Day!

There are two guys in the river!

Steve Maia Canico,
drowned in the Loire

after being charged by police.
Nantes, June 21,2019

Who killed Steve?

Fucking shit!

His hand was blown off

In front of the Assembly!

I just bent over and it exploded.

My hand was close,
maybe 15 or 20 centimeters.

And it went boom.

If we were just marching
and demanding our rights,

without all of that violence,
there'd be way more people.

People are afraid.

As soon as the demo starts,

during the first minute
tear gas is fired.

People are afraid
for their lives!

It's not about legitimate violence

and who holds it.

It's who has the legitimacy
to say who's violent.

That's where the fight is now.

Who has the media power

and the statutory legitimacy to say:
"You are violent,

and we're enforcing the law."
Or vice versa,

the insurgents or militants who say:

"We're not violent,
we're making legitimate demands.

But you are violent."

Who will win the fight for
the legitimacy to say what is violent?

I'm inside Fouquet's.

Fouquet's laid waste.

This is what's left.

Police! Get out!

Get out!

Get moving!

Hurry it up.

The idea is to get power to react.

The encounter is broken,

but the encounter with power in a demo
is very particular.

Generally speaking,
power passes through us,

at every moment of our existence.
It constitutes us.

It's a Foucauldian notion of power:
indecipherable, with no center,

but it produces effects
in everyday life,

and it's hard to remove it
from our daily lives.

So what does a demonstration do?

It simplifies the relationship to power,
makes it concrete.

It suddenly appears, leaps out.

The police with truncheons
is the show of power.

It's a bit grotesque,
reacting in a naked, brutal way.

It runs after you,

it manifests unambiguously,

This isn't the refined power
we're used to.

There's a form of enjoyment in it.

I made power react.
It exists in my perception.

And I can touch it,
affect it.

This is all very symbolic,
because obviously it remains...

It's not much.

As for property damage,
it's very similar.

To pick a piece of display window
off the ground is to hold a piece of power.

And the targeted institutions
are always institutions of capitalism:

real estate agencies, banks, etc.

The idea isn't
to materially affect power.

However, what you perceive
is the collapse of its display.

When you pick up that piece of glass,
you're holding a piece of power.

And you're wounding its pride.

Hey, they're afraid!

Macron, we're on our way!

Get the fuck out!

We're unarmed!

We have no weapons,
we've got nothing!

We have no violence!
No hatred!

We just want dialogue!

Demonstrating on the Champs-Elysées
is symbolic.

There's also the proximity
to those who fuck us over every day.

They're so close.

Protected by RoboCops,
but within reach.

You go when big demos
are happening in Paris,

and you hope it'll be the day
you get to them.

It's the day we're all waiting for.

"Guys! We're inside the Elysée Palace."

Macron said:
"Let them come get me."

It won't be long now.

He's doing everything he can.
That's the truth.

- Will they invite us in for drinks?
- We'll throw our own party!

Obey the law!

We will use force!

We are the people!
We pay you!

Stop hitting me!

In point of fact, the gilets jaunes
never employed firearms.

In an over-armed country,
with its hunting rifles,

not one weapon was used.

That's not a revolution.

A revolution seeks to eliminate
the seats of power.

In this case, a few people approached
the seats of power in early December.

It's a fine line between ecstatic vision
and murderous frenzy.

Symbolic violence is one thing.

But when you're facing people
who want to mutilate you...


Who was in fact mutilated?

...you have to defend yourself.

People stigmatize the police,

but as Pasolini said: I prefer
the policeman, son of a worker,

to the student thug,
son of a lawyer.

During the 19th-century revolutions,

like in Flaubert's
"Sentimental Education":

the people were drunk on violence,
they wanted to storm the palace,

wallow in the queen's bed,

drink from the cellars
until they were inebriated.

This is not that.

In this configuration,
violence is unleashed in a tiny area.

That's a well-behaved bourgeoisie.
Reinstate the wealth fax!

I know there are problems,
I'm sick of taxes, too.

I'm sick and tired of rising prices.

But the people who work here,

they show up super early,
they're super nice,

they come from super far away,
and this isn't right!

You're taking people's jobs!

Good night, Mrs Macron!

- It's not right.
- They're getting paid, anyway.

But who pays them?

Who is the state, Sir?

Forme, the legitimacy of violence

is absolutely democratic

in the sense that anyone can endorse it,
individually or collectively.

The legitimacy isn't solely the state's
for exercising violence.

I recently reread
a text by Jean Genet,

the preface to a book
about the Red Amy Faction.

He contrasts violence and brutality.

He explains that what the state
and the police do is brutality,

and that violence is very close
to the notion of life.

He provides metaphorical examples
1 find beautiful,

and that seem
very provocative today.

He cites the gem of wheat bursting open,
splitting the frozen earth.

The tiny chick with its beak,
cracking the egg

and breaking free.

The example of human birth,
of budding trees...

All of those acts
that are concretely violent,

because they are tearing,
breaking, smashing,

are essential gestures
of life and the life force.

We live in a society
with very intense systemic violence:

economic violence,
political violence...

It's violence through
a very indirect system,

with 2 or 3 or 10 or 12 tracks,

but that, at the end of the line,

produces something ferocious
in people's lives.

And that violence
is very hard to outsmart.

Its source is very far
from the person enduring it,

so it's very hard to find
who is responsible for it.

You tend to take it internally,
be subjected to it,

to endogenize it,
and to inflict it on yourself.

We know what it produces:
somatic illness, anxiety,

depression, suicide...
Or you take it out on your family.

That violence has to come out.
It expresses constrained life forces

that need to be freed again.

Rediscovering that proximity between
life and violence is very important.

Violence seen as legitimate...

It is legitimate
once you experience it.

Back up 50 meters
or I pull the pin!

You're mad!

Calm down!

You're holding a grenade!

Back off

We're hacking off!

If the state holds
that monopoly,

what distinguishes it
from a mafia, or from a family

where the pater familias
exercises violence without limits

over his wife and children?

If the state loses legitimacy,

it will be challenged by groups

and individuals
who will point a finger

and say:
"Who are you to exercise this violence?"

In the Benalla affair,

we have a citizen,

Alexandre Benalla,

assert his proximity
to president Macron

in order to use force.

Let go of me!
Who are you?

Listen to me!

I filmed the event on my phone,

and posted it on Twitter.

It was only 2 months later, when
we learned he worked for the President,

that anyone took an interest.

I thought they were
plainclothes police,

though the way they acted
seemed a little strange,

which is why I say in the video:
"Look at his face!

He beat a guy on the ground."

No media were interested,

as if a police officer
beating a demonstrator

or a passerby was normal.

Benalla didn't choose just any uniform
to beat that man.

He chose a police uniform.

It's symptomatic of police impunity.

That picture is wild!

There are passengers!

There are kids here!

Don't fire your non-lethals!

That guy there!

No, to the left!

Get back!

Calm down, man!

Bring the kids through.

My god, there are small children!

There are children here.

This is unbelievable.

It's incredible.

Film someone else, bitch!

- Did you call me a bitch?
- Yes. Film someone else.

No problem, it's on film.

- What's on that picture?
- It's a video.

Fucking leftie!

Anarchist, leftist!

You're against democracy!

Where's your armband?

Give me your collar number please, Sir.

And you give me your name!

Give me your collar number.
You're required to wear it and give it.

You called me a bitch, Sir.

You called me a bitch, Sir.
Give me your collar number.

Fuck off!

Beat it!

We get hit with rocks,
and you only film the police. Bravo.

1 will not justify my assignment.

We'll show your kids
what you're like.

Bravo democracy!

You're anti-democratic!

Against the Republic
and democracy!

I'll take your name
and take you in!

Take me in where, Sir?

Where will you take me, Sir?

To the station,
you poor little thing.

The panopticon is a prison
with a central tower

that can see anyone in the cells
without being seen.

Since you don't know
when you're seen or not,

You exercise a very strong

because you don't know
when the guard is watching you.

The asymmetry between seeing and
being seen founds the panopticon.

The smartphone overturns that,

and you can film the police bludgeoning,

you can film mistakes, aggressions,
police assaults on individuals

and immediately upload them live,

countering the usual
media or police versions.

That's a reversal of the asymmetry.

We're making symmetrical
something that was only one-way before.

It's invaluable.

Get back!

I'm a journalist!
Let me do my job!

Lower that!
I'm a journalist!

I have the right!

The right to be here!

I have the right to do my job, OK?

You see these videos:
“Look, he hit someone!"

But before you see the officer's
final gesture of self defense,

do you see what happened before?
Do you see the officer being insulted?

Do you see them being hit?

Do I keep you from doing your job?

Do I go to a police control and say:

"Stop this control!”

The police tell me:
"Stop filming!"

The phone is 3 cm from their face,

and the images end up on social media.

3 cm? This close?
I've never seen that.

Every day I see
my colleagues on social medial

Do you know what it's like
to work while constantly being filmed?


"Article 12,
Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1789."

...The Rights of Man
and of the Citizen.

"The safeguard of the rights of man
requires public military forces:

"these forces are thus established
for the good of all,

and not for the personal advantage
of those to whom they shall be entrusted."

Just what we needed!

Very timely.

Our revolutionaries were very smart

when they drafted
the Declaration.

The public police force,
one subject to public scrutiny...

Technology may today
be making that possible.

All of a sudden Apple or others

brought out the integrated camera,
the smartphone,

and suddenly, in my opinion,
a logic emerged

- to which the various forces
are adapting very slowly -

that makes
the public police force possible,

meaning the constraint
of public oversight.

Share this, friends!
It's out of hand at the Bastille.

Watch out, they're charging!

They're looking for a guy.

Put that thing down!


Son of a bitch!


He's bleeding!

We have a wounded man!

Lie down.

On your back.

They took out his eye!

Hold my hand, I'm here!

- My phone...
- It's on you.

Call my family.

We'll put it in your pocket.

How the demonstration is represented

is part of the demonstration.

We're cutting the live feed.

We needn't quote Debord,

but we've long understood
the importance of images and spectacle

of what we show along
with what we do.

We're at a stage that's important
for the horizontality of distribution.

The power structure no longer decides
what can and cannot be broadcast.

The whole set of recordings,

if we take them one by one,
is very interesting.

The ensemble shows which practices
prevail at a given time.

For the United Nations,
it's a critical phenomenon.

Fifteen years ago,

many of the scenes we're seeing now
were taking place daily,

but were hidden because we didn't have
the phones to film them.

We didn't have tools to share
the evidence immediately.

That's a radical change
that has transformed my methods.

I now receive complaints on WhatsApp,

people submit things on Signal,
on Telegram.

People send pictures

and brief statements
I can start working on,

looking for more investigative elements.

That's really central.

Nothing is hidden, and what's happening
is revealed to the world

through videos that get amplified.

Where's the police chief?

He shot me with a grenade.

Where's the chief now?

Back off

No, calm down!
I didn't do anything to you!

OK, forget it.

- So, is it OK now?
- Stop! It's OK!

Why are you flipping us off?

- I took a grenade!
- I don't give a fuck!

-Is it OK now?

Despite these videos from opponents
that are necessary and invaluable,

it feels like they can't quite stop

the steamroller of the government line.

They do become part
of a strategic combat:

When do I release the image?
Quick enough to serve as a rebuttal?

Given the unprecedented violence
of the rioters,

there were no excesses
from the police.

No deaths, no serious injuries,

which all experts agree is proof
of a great deal of control.

Please show us where the police
can shoot you with a flash-ball.

They can shoot at the ams...

The police are admired
by many French people.

I'm not sure,
but they can shoot at this zone here,

and at the legs.

How are you experiencing the terrible

accusations against law enforcement
of hyper-violence?

They must avoid the head.

The government is not drifting
toward authoritarianism,

but is often much too weak.

More than ever we need
a strong and protected police force.

If the grenade
had hit his hand directly, OK,

we could ask questions.

But the images speak for themselves.

He bends down and picks it up.

He asked for it.

More than ever,
the media should protect the police.

When I hear the deployment of terms

like "unprecedented"
or "extreme" violence"...

No, that violence is not extreme.

It's not "unprecedented".

If violence is the only term we have
to describe this,

what vocabulary remains

to describe the attack on the Bataclan

by guys with Kalashnikovs

who murdered 80 people?
What words are let?

France is being lectured
by the UN.

Is that right? Is it the role of the UN?
Or is it unreal?

Ms. Bachelet, who was
a distinguished president of Chile,

has totally lost it.

It would be interesting to know
who whispered in that commission's ear

the idea that France
doesn't respect human rights.

I intervened
because a matter was referred

by a group of individuals

who felt they were victims
as human rights defenders,

and who sent me a file. I asked
the French government some questions.

And they became indignant.

The Minister of the Interior,
the Prime Minister's office:

"How can you cite France
alongside Haiti

or Venezuela?
It's grotesque."

I got both a good and a bad surprise.

The good one was that I got a reply,
which not all states provide.

Butin it the government evaded
the main questions.

As a democracy,
France has no police violence,

so how could I assert
that I'd received complaints?

The narcissistic wounds
some people suffered

meant that the more pressure there was,
the stronger the resistance was

to calling in the UN.

I kept hearing: "The investigation
is ongoing, we can't comment.

Let's let the complaints board
do its job. We'll see later"

But we never saw anything later.

President Macron had to use
the police and the army.

No one likes that,
but it had to be done.

President Pifiera must do the same.

His main responsibility
is the security of the country.

He will have to doit,
within limits of course.

My fear is,

seeing how police violence
is developing in France,

how crowd control
is done in France,

that other countries
- in Africa, but not only -

will follow suit,

saying: If the country that claims
to be the homeland of human rights

can act in that way,

why should we be criticized
for using the same methods?

There are underpinnings
to these emerging phenomena.

It's interesting to note that,
beginning in 2014,

France was downgraded

on the indexes that measure democracy.

We were...
moderately downgraded.

We exited the group "full democracies"

to join the category
of "flawed democracies.”

So France declined
at the international level.

We didn't fall below the level
of Russia or Qatar,

that's certain.
But we did decline.

The French president invited me,
so it's uncomfortable to say,

but during the gilets jaunes

dozens of people were injured.

Police officers were injured.

We do not wan

such events to occur
in the Russian capital,

but we will always respect the law.

The president is right

to make distinctions
between the situations of our countries.

There are currently demonstrations
everywhere in our countries.

We can see that.

Nonetheless, France has always respected
not only the rights in its constitution,

but those of the Council of Europe.

Freedom of assembly has been protected.

When some disrupt the public order,

it must be protected.
It's the correlate of freedom of assembly.

In France - and this is why
the comparison does not hold -

the demonstrators
participated in elections.

We are a country where people
can express themselves freely,

demonstrate freely, vote freely.

We cannot accept that they riot
and disturb the public order.

That infringes
on the freedoms of others.

It's the difference between freedom,
which presupposes public order,

as protected

by the constitution
and the European Court,

and the non-respect of freedoms
when people's freedoms are reduced.

This is central
about what's at stake,

meaning the place of the police
in democracy

and the very definition
of what a democracy is.

Democracy is a horizon.

The question is
whether we position it as the horizon,

and if it's where we're headed.

But it's been falsified, with a screen
of false democracy in front of it.

Democracy has been reduced
to instrumental formulas.

We're told that
if we have free elections,

the separation of powers,

and a multiparty system,
we're in a democracy.


Those are some of the means
of democracy.

They're necessary. I don't disregard them.
But they're not enough.

The paradox is that,

in democracy, we more willingly employ
repression than prevention.

We let people assemble.

Sometimes we let them get out of hand,

and commit abuses.

And we repress.

Or else the situation
gets out of control.

A preventive regime is one in which

everything is done to avoid
the risk of the slightest abuse.

It's the Russian regime.

To avoid demonstrations,

everyone is arrested
before they get off the subway,

and the streets
are left open to traffic.

No one sees a thing,
people are arrested at home,

and they are jailed preventively.

Preventively, their means
of communication are cut off,

and there is no public disorder.

And you can see that

Vladimir Putin plays on that opposition,

saying: "I use less force than you do."

Without mentioning
that if the uses less force,

it's because he has kept
demonstrators off the street.

And you get Emmanuel Macron
trying to defend himself

for using force

because he can't keep
the demonstration from happening.

They're blocking us
from our declared route.

Declared and legal.

The riot police are here.
We don't know why.

They think we're going to...

As if we were planning to enter
the National Assembly!

In legal terms,
a regime is authoritarian

when it voluntarily lowers

the level of democratic possibilities.

We're not really there yet.

Legally we cannot say
this is an authoritarian regime.

But that the power in place
has authoritarian tendencies,

you don't have to be
a psychologist to see it.

The debate is in the street

That's very interesting for the future.

Will democracies follow the lead
of preventive regimes?

Meaning regimes in which

public order is a sacred good

and in which disorder, anything
that threatens order in the least

- on the pretext that order
is essential for freedom -

and in which they will preventively keep
demonstrations from taking place.

These are two incarnations
of the tension between order and liberty.

Democracy isn't consensus
but dissensus!

If there is no dissensus,
there is no democracy.

If we all agree, something's wrong.

Our freedoms have somehow been infringed.
We can't all agree.

It's a very old idea
in political philosophy.

Machiavelli wrote of the "tumult"
in Florence.

What he called tumult
was the life of the democracy.

It was the disagreement between
the elites and the people.

We have to accept disagreement

and give it life in democracy,

not reduce it or stifle it.

The emergence of Russia
as an ideological counterpoint,

and we could add China,

returns to Western democracies

- and I remain convinced
they are democracies -

returns to Western democracies
the duty to justify themselves,

the duty to do better,
to be exemplary.

Fucking shit!

His hand is ripped off

In front of the Assembly!

Don't look, sweetheart!

Move aside!

Apply a tourniquet!

We've got it!

Keep out of the way!



with the participation of

Gwendal Leroy
fork lift operator

Patrice Philippe
truck driver

Alain Damasio

Fabien Jobard

Michel Forst
UN Special Rapporteur

Bertrand Cavallier
general in the gendarmerie

Mathilde Larrére

Vanessa Codaccionni

Patrice Ribeiro
Synergie-Officiers union

Ludivine Bantigny

Sebastian Roché

William Bourdon

Anthony Caillé
CGT Police union

Monique Chemillier-Gendreau
Emeritus Professor of Public Law

Mélanie Ngoye-Gaham
social worker

Arié Alimi

Vanessa Langard

Benoit Barret
Alliance Police union

Manon Retourné
stay-at-home mother

Taha Bouhafs

Sébastien Maillet

Rachida Sriti

Myriam Ayab
stay-at-home mother

Romain Huét

Rémi Heitz, Public Prosecutor of Paris,
refused to speak with us.

Eric Morvan,
Director General of the National Police

Philippe Klaymann,
Central Director of the CRS

Jean-Marie Salanova,
Central Director of Public Security

and Brigitte Jullien, head of
the National Police Complaints Board

were not permitted to speak.

The Police Prefecture of Paris
declined all of our requests.

Thanks to all those,
amateurs and professionals,

who raised their smartphones
and made this film possible.

Scenes filmed in 13 French cities

between November 2018
and February 2020.

During that period, we counted
2 deaths, 5 hands amputated,

and 27 eyes lost
during law enforcement operations.

Jennifer Gay & Harold Manning