Map collection

27 January 2019

Title: “Hello, police? I’d like to report…” - Police violence against the Yellow Vests
Authors: David Dufresne and Philippe Rivière, Valentin de Bruyn, Hans Lemuet and Maxime Zoffoli
Creation date: 25 January 2019
Keywords: #France #police #violence #demonstrations #suppression #weapons #small_multiple
Publication: Mediapart, under the title «Allô, Place Beauvau? C’est pour un signalement…»
Sources: Collected and cross-checked by David Dufresne.
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Quotes: 1. “Do not participate in these factious attacks”
2. “When violence breaks out, freedom ceases”
3. “Determined to bring order back”
4. “I don’t know of any police officer who has attacked yellow vests”
5. “If the law were complied with, there would be no injuries”

This group map shows the extent, week after week, of police violence against the Yellow Vests. Since November 2018, these demonstrations denounce the ruling class’s contempt (the main culprit being President Emmanuel Macron), rising living costs and taxes, and public services that are no longer performing their role.

Due to its unusual modus operandi (occupation of roundabouts and weekly demonstrations with no formal notice), this new social movement has taken the government by surprise. The brutality of its repression is illustrated by the already disastrous toll of hundreds of wounded — including nearly twenty mutilated victims having lost an eye or a hand, and one death, in Marseille.

Among the 80,000 deployed police officers and gendarmes (military units deployed for civil law enforcement) encouraged by Édouard Philippe’s government to use their full force, there has been no shortage of abuse of power. The authors of this violence are furthermore made to feel protected by Interior Minister Christophe Castaner. Images of attacks and damage to property by certain demonstrators confronting the police, were used by him to portray all demonstrators as “factious” and (...) “present to kill,” ignoring reports of police violence and irregularities committed by his repressive apparatus.

General bullying and provocation, massive use of tear gas and the indiscriminate use of the so-called ‘non-lethal’ riot guns (Lanceurs de balles de défense, LBD), a weapon often used indiscriminately and against peaceful demonstrators, street medics or simple passers-by —, have caused a number of shocking incidents, sometimes with tragic consequences, relayed on social networks by hundreds of observers (demonstrators, journalists, passers-by...) who film the action continuously on their mobile phones.

David Dufresne, a freelance journalist, has identified and cross-checked these videos and information on his Twitter feed and published a database of these incidents on Mediapart, where he tries to classify them (by type of injury caused, by type of weapon, etc.) and understand how these events came to pass.

Now at the end of January, the government has barely acknowledged certain dysfunctions. They bear the political responsibility for this catastrophic ‘French-style policing,’ and a so-called political ‘model’ that now lays in tatters.

Cartographic approach

The original idea was to create a group of maps (aka ‘small multiple’) in chronological order to follow the movement’s ‘acts’ (weekly demonstrations, every Saturday), and represent the subject dynamics.

Act IV, on December 8, turned the Champs-Élysées into a battlefield. It shook power, but also traumatized demonstrators, many of whom who had turned out for the first time. The corresponding map shows the impressive increase in reports in and around Paris on this day. It is easy to see that similar abuses occurred on the same date throughout the country.

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Act III. A death in Marseille

The series highlights a narrative, and is supported by a selection of quotes providing political context: the dramatization of the Minister of the Interior, the paternalism of the President, the display of firmness by the Prime Minister, and finally the denial of violence caused by the instructions given to regional State representatives (Préfets).

The visual aspect of these maps is deliberately minimalist, even brutalist with use of yellow on a black background (the most contrasted colors available to us). Most importantly, they are an effective tool. On the site, each small map leads to a page dedicated to the ‘Act’ in question, with a larger map that allows everyone to see exactly what happened in a particular city, at each stage.

Finally, it should be noted that this series, like the other visualizations of the project, is updated automatically as new records are added to the database.

↬ Philippe Rivière

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