John Lichfield's eyewitness account of one of the demonstrations against gay marriage in Paris after the marriage equality bill passed is one of the best I've seen. It's very clear about the fact that the violence being acted out in France of late is not merely due to hard-right elements in French society, but that Catholics agitating against gay rights have lined up right beside the hard right, and are enabling the violence.
In the demonstration he witnessed, Lichfield notes, "The hard right thugs were supported verbally throughout, and often joined, by up to 500 ordinary-looking, well-dressed, well-off, fresh-faced young men and women from the richest areas of Paris." And then he reports:
The mob suddenly turned on the TV cameramen and press photographers. One photographer was knocked to the ground and something was sprayed in his eyes. Two of the scout-minded “Catho” girls ran to help him.
Two other girls – dressed in fashionable scarves, jeans and flat shoes - came up to look. One said: “Pfff. He’s only a journalist.” They ran on to catch up with the mob.
The cross-over between hard right activists and Catho-traditionalist kids fits a pattern which has worried politicians of both Right and Left in recent weeks. The mass gay marriage protests have eroded the increasingly flimsy barriers between the “traditional” and the “hard” right in France; between the National Front and the centre right.
The great majority of the people who demonstrated on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning went home peaceably. But it is inaccurate to claim, as the organisers did, that the trouble came from a “tiny group of hard right infiltrators” or from “CRS provocation”. The riot police were angelic in their discipline and patience.
The mood of the well-heeled kids, arrogant and excitable rather than sincerely angry, fits the mood of their parents. The gay marriage law has crystallised a contempt for President François Hollande which goes beyond his bumbling response to France’s economic woes. This, in part, explains the odd fact that gay marriage is being promoted by a right-wing government in Britain while it is passionately opposed by the right-wing opposition in France.
Those well-heeled kids from the wealthy suburbs are, it has to be noted, Catho-traditionalist kids. They're protesting against both gay rights and the socialist government of Hollande. In a pattern that is deeply entrenched in French Catholicism, they're willing to collude with the hard right and its violence, when what is at stake is toppling a left-leaning government.
They, and the leaders of the French Catholic church, are, in other words, every bit as responsible for the anti-gay violence that has been taking place in France as if they have been the ones throwing the rocks, rather than those throwing rocks while hiding their hands as they sing songs about love and peace and justice.
The graphic is an AP photograph of anti-gay protesters in one of the recent demonstrations in Paris.