Hundreds were arrested outside the National Assembly in Paris. Photo: Elliot Brown
It sounds like something that would happen in the Paris of 1851 rather than 2015.
On Tuesday July 14th, as France was celebrating its national Day, police arrested around 300 people as they tried to overthrow the government, albeit in a fairly halfhearted coup d'état.
The group, which is called “Mouvement du 14 juillet” (The 14th of July Movement), had gathered in front of the National Assembly after marching through Paris while the rest of the city commemorated Bastille Day.
Leaders called on its members, said to number 500, to uphold their “duty to rise up” and to create a “new government where all the current politicians are replaced”.
(France's National Assembly, where the coup was supposed to take place. AFP)
A spokesman from the movement, which claims to be made up of “ordinary citizens” fed up with France's political system, said that the group planned to enlist the help of a nearby marching military unit to help overpower the government, most of whom were out watching the parade.
“The military will have a choice to make, and we hope they will join us. Then we will take control of strategic buildings,” the spokesman told Les Inrocks magazine before the march, adding that these buildings included the Elysée Palace, Matignon (the official residence of the prime minister), the Luxembourg Palace and the National Assembly.
However thankfully for President François Hollande and co, the military declined to join the protesters and the attempted coup d'état was unsuccessful.
Most of the participants were led away by police, without much of a fight.
Police told the media that the group was marching illegally as they had not asked for permission to protest. Officers added the protesters were only arrested for identity purposes, and were not taken into custody.
The Mouvement du 14 Juillet describes itself online as a “collective of ordinary citizens” aiming to “change the course of current history” by “fundamentally changing the management structures of society”.
A journalist who has followed the group's developments extensively told the magazine that many of the members are “lost”, and that the group risks acting as a gateway to the extreme right.
The last time France saw a successful dissolution of the National Assembly after a coup d'état was in 1851, when Prince Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte staged a self-coup to stay in office and push through his planned reforms.