France takes action over notorious ‘black bloc’ rioters – to make their name more French

If you've ever watched TV coverage of major demonstrations in France you will have likely seen the 'black bloc' - masked, dressed in black and probably smashing something or setting it on fire.

France takes action over notorious 'black bloc' rioters - to make their name more French
Black bloc in Nantes at a protest over the goverment's planned pension reforms. Photo: AFP

These violent trouble-makers became a staple of the weekly 'yellow vest' protests that rocked France, causing thousands of euros of damage, particularly in Paris.

But now action has been taken – on their name.

They are not an official organisation and the name came about because of their habit of dressing generally in black, but what is troubling France's Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language, which falls under the Prime Minister's remit, is the fact that the name is in English.

The commission has therefore decided to rebrand them as 'bloc noir'.

The change has been approved by French language guardians Academie Française and published in the Journal Officiel, the state journal which publishes new decrees and laws.

The Commission added that the term cagoules noir (black hoods or balaclavas) can also be used to describe them. 

Although the bloc noir were frequently seen on 'yellow vest' demonstrations, their actions are not limited to this cause and they pre-date to existence of the 'yellow vest' movement that swept across France from late 2018.

They were also seen at demonstrations during France's mass transportation strikes in December 2019 and January 2020 and often turn up as the march is ending and begin smashing bus shelters, setting fire to street furniture and engaging in running battles with police.

The French police and government tend to refer to them as casseurs – rioters or hooligans – to distinguish them from people who are peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate. However casseurs is a less specific term that also includes other violent protesters who do not belong to the black bloc movement.

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French police hold 10 over Channel boat disaster

French police were holding 10 people suspected of involvement in the November 2021 Channel drowning of migrants in which 27 people died, a judicial source said on Thursday.

French police hold 10 over Channel boat disaster

One has been charged with manslaughter and people-trafficking, and the nine others were to be taken before a judge who will decide whether to charge them as well, the source said, asking not to be named.

Police had arrested 15 people suspected of involvement overnight Sunday to Monday, but released five of them without charges.

The death of the 27 in late November was the worst disaster in the Channel since 2018, when the narrow strait became a key route for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia who have been increasingly using small boats to reach England from France.

Among the 27 — aged seven to 47 — were 16 Iraqi Kurds, four Afghans, three Ethiopians, one Somali, one Egyptian and one Vietnamese migrant.

Only two people survived the disaster, which sparked tension between the British and French governments, with President Emmanuel Macron vowing France would not allow the Channel to become a “cemetery”.