Fear Over Freedom: the Challenging Campaign against France’s State of Emergency between November 2015 and May 2017 in Paris
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Despite the profound impact of France’s state of emergency on human rights and civil liberties, the social movement campaign against the state of emergency did not succeed in mobilising the population, convincing politicians and obtaining its main goal: the end of the state of emergency. This research is focused on the campaign against France’s state of emergency and how activists explain its limited success between November 2015 and May 2017 in Paris. Building upon twenty-five in-depth interviews with French activists, the way in which they motivate and legitimate their campaign is analysed through the concept of collective action frames. Whereas all activists opposed the state of emergency, they prioritised different problematic aspects, pursued different end goals through divergent strategies and did not construct a collective identity for the opposition movement. In the narratives of failure activists use to make sense of the limited success of their campaign, they include external explanations, focusing on the constraining effects of political opportunity structures and issues of frame resonance, as well as internal explanations, focused on the lack of resources, common priorities and a collective identity. Activists point to the lack of a collective identity and the existence of multiple splits within the campaign as one of the most important factors impacting its success. These splits include a division between universalist and communitarianist organisations, big associations and organisations working “on the ground” and the two groups that have been mainly targeted by the state of emergency: the Muslim community and political activists of the extreme-left milieu. The state of emergency has highlighted the differences between these groups while at the same time providing opportunities for new alliances.