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What's the Deal With All This Unrest in Paris?

It's getting hard to keep track of the rioting in Paris these days. The City of Lights has just experienced its fifth weekend of protests by the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests. On the one hand, several news media reported that the rage seemed to be dying down. On the other hand, no less a source than Vogue confided, in an article posted Saturday evening, that the rioters, who have already been photographed bringing chaos to the Champs-Élysées and vandalizing the Arc de Triomphe, are making life awfully difficult for high-end Christmas shoppers.

“The screens of the ATMs on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré were shattered next to a Missoni store,” wrote the style rag's Lynn Jaeger. “A section of the Tuileries fence had been pulled down; the windows of the Chanel shop on Rue Cambon and Zadig & Voltaire on the Rue de Rivoli, both of which were looted last weekend, were discretely boarded up.” The point is made, but hey, let's have a little more ritzy name-dropping: “On Friday night, you could look out the window of the second floor of Le Castiglione restaurant and see gray mesh screens nailed to Louis Vuitton’s facade. Two guys were unloading a truck full of planks and methodically covering the glass of stores up and down the street. Isabel Marant opted for plain wood; Goyard had cheerful, color-block panels. Walking past Balenciaga, you noticed that not only was the shop boarded up, but the place was also empty -- the shelves cleared of every last dad sneaker and striped handbag.”

Even as the gilets jaunes were ruining the holiday season for the French capital's richest consumers and most deluxe emporia, a whole different set of protesters tried to disrupt the metropolis’s high-culture scene. On Sunday evening, a mob of two to three hundred migrants, asylum seekers, and illegal aliens, mostly of African origin, stormed the Comédie Française, where a performance of Victor Hugo's play Lucrezia Borgia was underway. Their goal was reportedly to compel, or convince, the deputy manager of the legendary theater to arrange an appointment for them with Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner, and thereby help them to secure residency documents. An odd approach, to say the least, but maybe this sort of thing makes more sense in France, where high culture, after all, rules. In any event, the mob was successfully repelled, first by the theater guards, then by a large cohort of gendarmes who arrived on the scene with a celerity that one does not immediately associate with French cops. But of course the police in every country have their own priorities: while British bobbies, for example, are quicker to check out reports of online Islamophobia than of Muslim gang rape, it would only make sense for their Gallic counterparts to be more concerned about productions of Victor Hugo dramas in the first arrondisement than about honor killings outside the Périphérique.