Emmanuel Macron responded to protesters making noise during his visit to Alsace that “banging saucepans will not move France forward”.
It happened when France’s president was visiting a factory in Muttersholtz (Bas-Rhin) on Wednesday (April 19).
Protesters gathered in advance of his arrival, carrying anti-government signs and banging saucepans (called ‘casseroles’ in French).
The situation was tense amid ongoing opposition to the government’s pension reforms.
Banging saucepans is a well-known method of protest, widely used in France. Called ‘un concert de casseroles’, it is thought to date back to the medieval ‘charivari’ practice, in which people were humiliated by other villagers banging pots and pans outside their window to protest a particular action (such as an ill-advised marriage).
But the president told the waiting press that “saucepans won’t move France forwards…what I’m interested in is building a future for our children. It’s my duty not to stop”.
He said: “What interests me, is to be able to talk with you about the current difficulties, the cost of living and rising prices, many subjects on the economic and social agenda over the next few months.”
Mr Macron, taking aim at those “grumbling” or “banging saucepans”, added: “I don’t think these people want to talk. I think they want to make noise. If we are in a society where we only listen to people who want to make noise to cover up words, then we won’t do very well.”
Police dispersed around 100 protesters who were gathered against the visit. A prefectural decree had banned all protests ahead of time. The gendarmerie warned, through a megaphone, that if the situation escalated, they would use force.
One protester told Le Figaro: “I’m worried about the country. We are leaving debt to our children.”
During the visit, the neighbourhood’s electricity was cut off, for which no group has yet claimed responsibility. However, a representative from the CGT Bas-Rhin said that it had been “among the options” considered by protesters ahead of the visit.
Laurent Feisthauer, departmental secretary of the CGT Bas-Rhin, said: “We are happy about it anyway. Because just as with the saucepans, it has just disrupted the president’s communication operation.”
Prefectural decree ‘bans saucepans’
Some reports have said that the department prefect in Ganges (Hérault) has now banned protesters from bringing saucepans or using kitchen utensils on-site, ahead of the president’s visit to the village on Thursday (April 20).
More specifically, the decree states: “[We ban] any object likely to constitute a weapon within the meaning of Article 132-75 of the Criminal Code, or which may serve as a projectile presenting a danger to the safety of persons and property", as well as "the use of portable sound devices or those emanating from vehicles that are not duly authorised”.
Several protesters were unable to access the site due to carrying pans, HuffPost reported, as showed many videos on Twitter.
"A quel moment on n'a pas le droit d'avoir une casserole?". A Ganges, les habitants découvrent, excédés, qu'ils sont privés de leur timbale à cause de la visite de Macron. L'apaisement, c'est (pas) maintenant... pic.twitter.com/0uWoY0COuz— Nils Wilcke (@paul_denton) April 20, 2023
Green MPs Marine Tondelier and Julien Bayou were among opposition MPs to respond with criticism on Twitter, saying: “France. 2023. The government is taking out decrees against saucepans.”
Serge Slama, a professor of public law at the University of Grenoble Alpes, told the HuffPost that the decree was “illegal”.
He said: “This prefectural decree - signed, moreover, by a former professor of public law - is totally illegal. A protection perimeter under article L226-1 CSI has only one function: to prevent the risk of terrorism and not to protect the president from the booing of his citizens.”
The prefecture later said that some gendarmes had misinterpreted the decree.
In response to the reports, spontaneous ‘casserole’ protests have broken out, including in Paris.
Paris, France... Spontaneous casserole protest breaks out... this form of protest has been used for centuries against politicians and governments. A call to Macron to start listening. pic.twitter.com/jedSN9X0UX— Pelham (@Resist_05) April 17, 2023
Some political cartoonists have also highlighted the incidents satirically.
This one says: “Makes sense to be covered up”, showing the president wearing a saucepan for protection.