France’s Latest Way to Sound Anger Over Pensions Law: Saucepans

“It’s a total denial of democracy,” said Stéphanie Allume, 55, who was bashing a stainless-steel saucepan during a May Day demonstration in Paris. “When it’s no longer possible to dialogue with our government, we drown out their voices with the noise of our pots.”

The casserolades — the latest stage of a protest movement that began with peaceful marches that drew millions into the streets and then spawned some “wild protests” marked by heavy vandalism — also reflect a centuries-long protest tradition in France.

Pan beating dates back to the Middle Ages in a custom, called “charivari,” that was intended to shame ill-matched couples, according to Emmanuel Fureix, a historian at University Paris-Est Créteil. The tradition then took a political turn in the 1830s, under King Louis Philippe I, with people banging pots and pans at night under the windows of judges’ and politicians’ homes to demand greater freedoms.

Those saucepans, Mr. Fureix said, were “an everyday object, an instrument that embodied the voice of the people” at a time of poor political representation — a theme echoed in today’s casserolades. “The revival of gestures that belonged to an undemocratic age, the 19th century, is precisely the symptom of a democratic crisis,” he said.

Mr. Macron has been visibly annoyed by the pan beating, saying that “it’s not saucepans that will make France move forward” — to which Cristel, the French cookware manufacturer, responded on Twitter: “Monsieur le Président, at @cristelfrance we make saucepans that take France forward!!!”

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