Trial against the dismissal of the Arc de Triomphe: “It was total hysteria,” say the defendants

The essentials The trial of nine people who were tried during a yellow vest demonstration in 2018 for looting the Arc de Triomphe opened this Monday in Paris.

They wanted to demonstrate “peacefully”, “take pictures”, “protect” themselves from tear gas. At the trial on Monday of the Arc de Triomphe’s sacking during a yellow vests demonstration in 2018, young people without a story tried to explain how they were “drawn into” “total hysteria”.

There are seven of them in the great courtroom of the Paris court, and they stand and face the president, not to take the air far. They are not the “main culprits” – never identified – “scenes of devastation” that have made the media rounds, recalls President Sonia Lumbroso. However, you risk a prison sentence of up to 10 years, especially for serious damage and theft.

Shocking photos

The court begins “tracing” the thread of this act of December 1, 2018, act 3 of the yellow vests demonstrations. Hundreds of vehicles burned, shops looted … And then the Arc de Triomphe, which was stormed by demonstrators in a fog of tear gas. Scroll the screen through the “extremely shocking” photos of what this Parisian “symbol” suffered.

The pillars of the historical monument are covered with markings, sometimes up to 5 meters high. The President reads them in a disaffected tone: “We cut the heads off for less”, “Long live the wind, long live the wind, long live vandalism”. She then “passes on” the inscriptions “not too politely” aimed at President Emmanuel Macron – but which appear on the screen and cause a muffled laugh in the busy room. “The Arc de Triomphe, it doesn’t matter,” she said several times.

Then come the photos of the interior, “completely searched”. The floor is “lined with broken glass”, a “table thrown on the floor”, “a model of the Arc de Triomphe gutted”, “a bust marked” with red dots at eye level … “A field of ruins”. , sums them up, and the damage is estimated at one million euros.

Postcard theft, lies …

What the accused are accused of before her sometimes seems a bit mocking.

At the head is Valentin N., a 25-year-old Breton in a brown velvet jacket. He has no previous convictions like most of his co-defendants (including two women who were absent from the hearing but were represented). “I have sympathy for the yellow vests,” he said immediately. After coming to the Place de l’Étoile “to see what was going on”, “to take pictures”, he said that he was caught in “the movement of panic” and found himself there. Like other demonstrators, he climbs onto the roof of the monument “out of curiosity”. Valentin N. “mechanically” picked up four postcards in the destroyed souvenir shop. “Two from the Arc de Triomphe and two from the Eiffel Tower” – specifies the President. He will be brought to justice for this theft.

Mehdi B., then a 26-year-old delivery man, came to demonstrate. “Peaceful,” he says. “Of course,” replies the President. “You see things get out of hand, you don’t think it’s going too far, I’m going?” She asks him. “At that time it was already too late, the CRS wouldn’t let us leave the Place de l’Étoile,” replies the person who, like others, claims that he entered the monument to “protect himself” from the tear gas. “It was a survival instinct,” he explains. He only appears to enter the memorial and to lie about his identity at the time of his arrest.

“It was total hysteria, I was trained, it got into my head.”

Another is there to try and smash a door with a fire extinguisher. He was 18, the president recalls, trying hard to understand the “why”. Melvyn A. is inaudible and tries to explain. “It was total hysteria”, “I was trained”, “It went into my head”, repeats the one who previously “knew nothing about nothing” with the yellow vests.

Then came Hamza C., then 21 years old. His DNA was found on a partially destroyed statue in the memorial. “Could it be a postillion?” He says. “It’s a priori contact DNA, so it’s the skin,” replied the president impassively. “I wandered around a bit,” he admits. But “when I arrived everything was already broken”.

The questioning of the defendants will continue on Tuesday, the trial is scheduled until Friday.