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Bonnets Rouges (Protest movement, Brittany, France)

Last modified: 2016-11-12 by ivan sache
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Flag of the Bonnets Rouges - Images by Ivan Sache, 13 April 2014

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Presentation of the Bonnets Rouges

The Bonnets Rouges (Red Caps; Breton, Ar bonedoú ruz; website) are a Breton protest movement originally established as the collective Vivre décider travailler en Bretagne (To live, to decide, to work in Brittany). The spokespersons of the movement are Christian Troadec, Mayor of Carhaix and General Councillor of Finistère, Thierry Merret, President of FDSEA29 - the Finistère branch of the main French farmers' union -, Olivier Le Bras, delegate of the FO workers' union at Gad, and Corinne Nicole, delegate of the CGT workers' union at Tilly-Sabco.
The movement emerged in the context of the crisis of food-processing industry, one of the main sources of income in Brittany and of the so- called "Breton miracle". In October 2013, the family-owned Gad company closed its historical pork carving factory of Lampaul-Guimiliau (c. 2,000 inhabitants), firing 889 employees. The Tilly-Sabco poultry carving factory, located in Guerlesquin, is still under threat of closure.

The supporters of the movement wear a red cap, a reference to the Red Caps' uprising that broke out in the 17th century in Pays Bigouden. The collective organized in late 2013 two big demonstrations in Quimper (2 November) and Carhaix (30 November). Since then, they have been involved in several other actions, often targeting the gates erected on the main roads to collect the so-called "ecotax" on trucks. The destruction of gates by fire, repeated confrontations with the police and bursts of violence in some demonstrations somewhat tainted the image of the movement. Moreover, there is a strong environmentalist concern in Brittany, while the movement defends industries that have a strong negative impact on the environment.

Ivan Sache, 13 April 2014

Flag of the Bonnets Rouges

Mikael Bodlore, a specialist in the study of flags and arms, author of the Atlas of Brittany and of recent work on classical Breton music, and Éric Léost; a member of the Bonnets Rouges committee in Bigouden Country, designed the Bonnets Rouges flag, described as follows (Le Télégramme, 5 March 2014):

The flag is made of a St. Andrew's cross, recalling the one used by the Scots as a symbol of their victory over the English. The cross on a red background is also a symbol of the hazard threatening Brittany's economy and employment. The red disk in the middle symbolizes the cap. The red colour is also the symbol of the work world.
The ermine spots displayed like on a compass rose mean that the movement concerns the whole, five-department [historical] Brittany*. The ermines recall that this is a Breton flag, rejecting all kind of [political] take-over of the movement**.

*The movement was initiated in Finistère, where most threatened industries are located, and quickly spread to the rest of Brittany.
**The movement, of clear regionalist orientation, "gained" some support, which it never sought, from extreme-rightist and ethno- regionalist groups. People wearing red caps, not necessarily member of the movement, were seen in demonstrations organized by those groups.

Ivan Sache & Fabien Antoine, 13 April 2014