Playground politics: ‘Yellow Vests vs. Police’ game hitting French schoolyards

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As France experiences its worst turmoil in decades, a new craze is sweeping French schoolyards. Alongside football, tag, and hopscotch, perceptive kids are taking sides in a new game at recess: Yellow Vests against the police.

“The Yellow Vests are the bad guys, they break the shop windows, so we fight between the bad guys and the policemen,” explained 6-year-old Adam, a schoolboy in Paris’ 8th District, to France’s BFM TV. Admitting he preferred to play as a Yellow Vest because less running was involved, Adam said that he chooses not to shout anti-government slogans alongside his friends because he ‘doesn’t agree’ with them.

“Gilets jaunes contre CRS”, le nouveau jeu des écoliers dans les cours de récré pic.twitter.com/U8d9Ju5lwB

— BFMTV (@BFMTV) January 22, 2019

Since November 17, the Yellow Vest movement has been staging weekly protests, initially against proposed fuel hikes. However, it has since morphed to include wider discontent against the “reform” agenda of President Emmanuel Macron, which critics say favor the country’s elites. Protests have often been marred by violence as protesters clash with police.

 “One hears ‘Macron resignation’ all day long in the yard, and even in class,” one teacher, known as Emma, told the station. She added that the school was eventually forced to ban the song, explaining to the pupils that they should not say such things as they are too young to vote.

The slogan has become a regular war cry at the weekly Yellow Vest demonstrations and forms the chorus of a popular song written about the movement by rapper Kopp Johnson, which has received almost 18 million views on YouTube.

The children’s reenactment of violence on the streets is a way of making sense of the problems in society, says child psychiatrist Marie-Rose Moro.

The more violent and disturbing reality is, the more children try to tame it through their games, their staging, and their discussions.

Instead, she advises teachers to have frank discussions with children about the topic and explain to them the difference between genuine protesters and “saboteurs,” the name given to those who only want to cause trouble with the police.

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