PARIS — It wasn’t exactly the Storming of the Bastille, but a violent antigovernment protest still rattled guests waiting to get into the Hermès men’s show on Saturday night. Protestors clashed with a line of baton-wielding police and at one point tried to crash through the black iron gates of the Mobilier National complex where the show was taking place.
Demonstrators chanted “Macron, resign!” and one even cracked an egg on Hamish Bowles’ head. Bob Chavez, president, and chief executive officer of Hermès Americas, never made it through the gates, and missed the show.
The building serves as a warehouse for French state-owned furniture and also houses training centers for métier d’art, or artisanal skills such as tapestry restoration. Protestors were demonstrating against the public institution’s private partnerships, such as renting the building to Hermès for the show.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s government has been revisiting the current system of state support of the Métiers d’Art — which also includes embroidery workshops in other parts of France and textile manufacturing. The institution dates back to the 17th century.
“Culture is becoming a consumer good like any other. And this shouldn’t be!” read a tract that was handed out to showgoers, and signed by the country’s largest union CGT.
“We are against privatization! It’s a public service!” one protestor told WWD. “Furthermore, we’re protesting against the pension reforms,” he added.
Macron’s project to reform the country’s complicated pension system has come up against resistance from a number of sectors — the most visible being public transport. Train and subway workers have been staging strikes since December, disrupting transportation systems in the French capital and beyond for weeks.
Last weekend, other protestors set fire to La Rotonde, the famous Paris restaurant favored by Macron. While the fire was extinguished, the restaurant remained closed on Saturday. The Paris prosecutor’s office launched an investigation to determine the cause of the blaze.
Also on Saturday, police fired tear gas and used a water cannon to control crowds at the end of an antigovernment march, while protesters lit fires outside Gare de Lyon train station, according to the Associated Press.