A surprise stop to show that he can still exchange, certainly strongly, with the French: Emmanuel Macron defended his record on Thursday in Dole, in the Jura, before a memorial tribute which allowed him to praise the merits of "order "in the service of "freedom".
Back on the ground at a steady pace since he decreed "one hundred days" to relaunch his second five-year term entangled in the pension crisis, the Head of State had planned a tribute to the freed slave who became General Toussaint Louverture , at the Château de Joux, in the Doubs.
But while demonstrators against retirement at 64 were waiting for him near the old fortress, he showed up at the Dole market, a hundred kilometers away, before continuing on his way by helicopter.
Welcomed wherever he is announced by a concert of saucepans, Emmanuel Macron seems to want to multiply these stages kept secret until the end to show, like Thursday, that he can also go into contact with the French without being booed. The exchanges are lively and direct, but basically it is also what the Elysée is looking for, which imagined this sequence of collective catharsis.
Why this exercise? "To hear the difficulties (...) To have new ideas, to feel what is understood, what is not understood", he explained, accompanied by some journalists, in front of flabbergasted passers-by.
"And also be able to deal with anger", but "in an artificially unorganized way", he added, judging "useless" the trips "where everything is arranged".
He thus seems to be picking up the thread of the presidential campaign, reduced to its simplest expression by the war in Ukraine and a certain absence of candidate Macron. "With you in Dole," he tweeted, echoing his 2022 tagline.
Asked about rising prices, taxes, small pensions, medical deserts, the Head of State discussed at length with traders, customers and simple onlookers.
"Everything is expensive. There are people who are starving," a lady told him. "Company car, free housing, we don't all have that."
A shopkeeper complained of being "retired and still working".
The bosses of large retailers are blacklisted: "When are we going to stop allowing these people to get their pockets full of it?" asks a gentleman.
"It shocks everyone. It shocks me too," admitted Emmanuel Macron, pinning down "gaps" such that we "can no longer explain them to people".
Frustrated, during his rowdy walkabout last week in Alsace, not being able to dialogue, he took advantage of the calmer climate to recall tax cuts, energy checks or the increase in small pensions.
"Now we have to manage to recreate a wage dynamic," he pleaded, however, returning the ball to the employers' court.
A former local representative of the yellow vests, Fabrice Schlegel, also strongly challenged him on the "colossal deficit", reproaching him pell-mell for having "killed the hospital function, local medicine". "You've been smoking us out for five years."
"You are still a funny (..) You are asking me for more expenses in fact", replied the president.
At the same time, 200 to 300 demonstrators were held back, at the cost of some jostling, by a cordon of gendarmerie more than a kilometer from the Château de Joux where he then went to give a speech on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in France.
"We have never seen a president who protects himself in this way, and who despises us so much," gritted Pascal Maillard, 62, retired from Enedis. "We are not terrorists, we just want to be heard," said Céline, a 51-year-old teacher.
Taking the example of Toussaint Louverture, Emmanuel Macron extolled in his speech the merits of "order" in the service of "freedom", and those of "concord".
"An exceptional revolutionary, Toussaint Louverture also considered that only order could maintain freedom, prosperity and the public good", he launched from the fortress where the former slave died imprisoned in 1803 -- a a nod to "republican order", one of his priority projects for the rest of his term.
"Toussaint Louverture had understood that the only insubordination was vain", said Emmanuel Macron again.
"Without individual and collective insubordination, there is no liberation, neither slaves, nor employees forced to work until the age of 64," replied the rebellious Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Twitter.
27/04/2023 18:57:43 - La Cluse-et-Mijoux (France) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP