Woman behind gilets jaunes says revolt hijacked
The founder of France's "gilets jaunes" revolt says it has become a dangerous "dog without a leash" and is prey to being hijacked by extremists and anarchists.
Jacline Mouraud (51) is urging protesters to open a dialogue with the French government. Mouraud, a composer and hypnotherapist from Brittany, is credited with sparking the movement after six million people viewed her Facebook video diatribe against environmental duties on petrol and diesel last month.
"What are you doing with the money apart from buying new dishes at the Elysee Palace and building yourself swimming pools?" she asked President Macron.
But she said yesterday that the movement had now been hijacked by an increasingly violent fringe of "extremists and anarchists".
"This movement has broken free of everyone. You can't reason with people any more. Some don't even remember what demands we made at the start. It's as if we had kept the dog on a leash and today the leash has snapped."
Before the violence of the past two weeks, she said, the revolt was a "spontaneous movement of the people".
Now, however, it was, she said, not just "beyond the reach of the government, political parties, unions" but "the people from the movement themselves".
She added: "We're witnessing a tsunami. The wave is still in the air and we'll just have to wait for it to crash down again."
Facebook, she said, had initially "helped bring people together and get organised". But it also now had a "very negative side", she added.
Social media experts say Facebook's decentralised nature is ideal for movements such as the "gilets jaunes", particularly as it changed its algorithms earlier this year to lower the visibility of content published on pages run by large media outlets.
"It prioritised content being shared by groups, individual profiles, and local information. This change in the algorithm boosted the emergence of this movement," said one expert.
Hundreds of social media accounts linked to Russia have sought to amplify the street protests that have rocked France, according to analysis by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company. Facebook's new algorithm for ordering the posts that users see has also raised the profile of extremists, conspiracy theorists and proponents of fake news.
Mouraud and other "spokespeople" for the "gilets jaunes" have received death threats. Those behind the threats "don't want a resolution of the conflict", she said.
She was among a delegation that met French prime minister Edouard Philippe, last Friday. They listed demands including tax justice, proportional representative in legislative elections and raising low pensions.
The prime minister has called for three months of talks between protesters and local and national officials.
Mouraud added: "Today, I have no idea how this will pan out. What's for sure is if we don't get organised, it will have no future. We'll have done all that for nothing."