Macron bans pans using anti-terror laws in crackdown on protesters

Protests in France

French President Emmanuel Macron banned the use of saucepans in protests ahead of his visit to Loir-et-Cher, France, on Tuesday. Protesters have turned to pots and pans to express discontent with Macron’s pension reforms. French demonstrations against raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 have morphed from lobbing paving stones, dodging tear gas and brandishing banners to making noise by banging kitchen saucepans.

But on Tuesday, the French leader resorted to anti-terrorism laws to ban the noisy practice – for just a day.

A new decree was passed to ban the use of “sound amplifying devices” during the visit of the President of the Republic to the Loir-et-Cher.

However, the move was later suspended by a judge but raised eyebrows across the country.

This very Gallic culinary cacophony — called the “casserolade” — began last week during a televised speech by Macron. Protesters gathered in over 400 spots in front of town halls and in the streets of Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg and beyond, in an effort to drown out his voice.

It comes after the pan beating took place across France once more Monday evening at 8pm, at the behest of ATTAC, an anti-capitalism activist group.

Pots and pans were wielded earlier in the day to harass ministers on official outings, including Health Minister François Braun visiting a hospital in Poitiers and Education Minister Pap Ndiaye, who took a detour in Lyon to avoid dozens of demonstrators.

Reacting to the din, Macron proclaimed during his visit to Alsace last week that “it’s not saucepans that will make France move forward”.

Patrick Baudouin, president of the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH), said using noisy instruments to protest is “part of the history of demonstrations”.

He said: “You can carry a whistle, use a saucepan, it’s still something that doesn’t seem to merit a banning order” and added that considering this measure was “absurd” and “bordering on the ridiculous”.

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Thibaut Spriet, national secretary of the Syndicat de la magistrature, said: “The Hérault decree was taken opportunely at a time when the protest was taking this direction, the idea of making noise when members of the government and the president were passing through.

“The idea is to prohibit a mode of expression.”

Such a culinary battle cry may sound like an unusual way to voice discontent, yet in France it is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years.

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During the July Monarchy of 1830, Republicans wishing to oust King Louis-Philippe beat pots and utensils to express dissent against “the state apparatus,” historian Emmanuel Fureix told France Culture radio.

At that time when there were only 200,000 voters in the country, the saucepan was the mode of expression of those who had no voice, he added. Fureix said that beating saucepans first originated in the Middle Ages, in the popular tradition of the charivari, where a concert of saucepans, rattles, cries and whistles was customary to express disapproval of an ill-assorted marriage.

France has already drawn attention for its creative protests against the retirement law.

Last week, disused gas and electricity meters were dumped in front of a regional administration building in Marseille by striking energy workers, while a street artist in Paris turned dozens of uncollected trash bins into sculptures.

Polls consistently show a majority of French people are opposed to the pension reform, which Macron says is needed to keep the retirement system afloat as the population ages.

Protesters who have been out in force in their millions since January are also angry at Macron himself and his presidency, which they see as threatening France’s worker protections and favouring big businesses .

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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