I am going to deliberately and joyfully nail the beak to all this jumble of degôches, progressives and frileux well-thinkers who spread anathemas and insults of a racist nature against these few dozens of angry kids who, on this famous Saturday, March 13th, made a formidable and salutary mess in my good old city of Liège, rightly, in this case, reputed to be ardent. Of course, and to put on a good face, I must regret that some policemen had to suffer from this sudden outburst of anger, the causes of which will never be perfectly clarified, I think. Still, when you enter the quarry, you should know that it’s not just to regulate traffic, whether in Place Saint-Lambert or elsewhere. The job of a policeman, today, is inseparable from that of an actor in the maintenance of order (of what order, it’s up to each and everyone to appreciate the matter; for my part, I won’t surprise anyone by saying that it’s the capitalist and bourgeois order that has dominated everywhere for a few hundred years — in thought and in practice — and that no struggle worthy of the name has ever upset). 

But who are these policemen, how and why did they (this goes for the ladies, but I abhor this practice of inclusive writing) enlist under the uniform? One can assume that a certain percentage saw this job as the realization of a childhood dream; you know, going after all kinds of crooks, big criminals and low-life thugs, defending the widow and the orphan and all that sort of thing. As for the rest, it is safe to assume that, for many aspirants, more mundane considerations come into play here. Between unemployment and a job that doesn’t require any particular skills, one can understand that the choice is quickly made. Certainly, the candidates are subjected to a training which has all the appearances of seriousness; the selection is also made according to and on the basis of objective data as for the mental health of the applicants and, in fine, in principle, only those persons who are perfectly capable of fulfilling the obligations they are required to fulfil should exercise the function of representatives of law and order. How and why, then, do some police officers, in particular circumstances, behave in a perfectly condemnable manner towards such and such a person? Why are citizens whose skin color or general appearance does not correspond to the average most often questioned, subjected to such humiliations and hurtful or downright offensive remarks and treated as potential suspects? 

One will remember the testimonies of very young people, arrested and locked up arbitrarily in the cells of a barracks of sinister reputation, following a peaceful demonstration in which many of them did not participate, who had to undergo insults and beatings from unchained police officers. And we will note, in passing, all the difficulties that the parents of these kids have encountered in filing a complaint following these unfortunate incidents. In short, and to conclude, facts of all kinds have gradually created in a large part of the population, and among some young people in particular, a feeling of mistrust towards those whose mission is clearly defined, namely, to be at the service of the citizens, whoever they are and whatever the community to which they belong. 

And it is for some of these reasons that the scum met in Liege that day. Yes, perfectly:the scum! Let’s see the Larousse: « Racaille, feminine noun. Pejorative: a group of shady, feared or despised individuals; a disreputable person. But also: scoundrel, swindler, vermin, scoundrel; and finally: rabble, dregs, scum, plebs, peat (old) « . Do you see the picture? Add a little black and it will be complete. One will remember those striking episodes of the great Revolution of 1789 which saw crowds coming from the suburbs of Paris and which, by who knows what premises, came to storm the Bastille, the Tuileries and other emblematic places of the old regime already wavering and about to collapse. Who were these people, these women and men responding to the cries of a few leaders, armed with pikes, sticks, in short, the meager weapons at their disposal, and who, in defiance of the most serious dangers, went up to the assault of what, until then, represented an order that had become unbearable? Well, yes: illiterate scum, in rags, out of patience. 

Certainly, one will say to me, there was in Liege no Bastille to invade not more, surely, than there was either in the young insurgents this « political conscience » which could have explained if not excused this access of rage and fury. And then, isn’t it true that among those who are scandalized by a few broken windows and the theft of a few pairs of sneakers, how many are those who, on social networks, never stop blaming and insulting those who, « up there », experts and politicians, restrict our freedom to come and go, to see their friends, to sit at the terraces, to go to the theater, to the cinema, to relax in public parks? How many of them are, for the most extravagant reasons, controlled and fined by police officers who, for some of them, also question the validity of the tasks they have been assigned? Would I go so far as to say that, in some ways, this part of the angry youth constitutes a kind of vanguard of what is emerging in the public opinion? Yes, I’m saying that. 

We see, more and more, people leaving their homes and gathering for the most diverse motives and pretexts; some for an improvised carnival in the streets of Forest, others to eat and drink on such and such a square of a small town on the banks of the Ourthe in the region of Liège and that in defiance of the instructions and abstruse orders of decision-makers who are more and more mocked and despised. For the time being, the policemen in charge of gently repressing these guilty excesses are obeyed, they disperse nicely, and go back home, satisfied all the same with the nose-thumbing to the « elites » in almost perdition, but, as we know and as History testifies in abundance: a small spark is always likely to set the powder keg on fire. May 68, May 2021, same fight? 

Jean-Pierre L. Collignon 

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