‘Manuel Valls resign!’ That’s the blunt message currently making the rounds in France – in the form of three banknotes.
The very same strategy was used in Spain only a few weeks ago, where messages appeared targeting the government’s strict policy of austerity. The ruse then quickly found its way to Tunisia, where the slogan ‘Clear off Ennahda!’ suddenly started appearing on both banknotes and coins.
In France, the website Collectif des Innovations/illuminations Politiques [Collective of Innovations/Political illuminations] posted the first photos of the banknotes that were marked using stamps studded with red ink. Contacted by FRANCE 24, Matjules, the founder of the group, explains that the idea came from the political messages engraved on Euros circulating in Spain: “It’s both thumbing one’s nose at the current banking system, whilst also a way of showing that we won’t forget what Manuel Valls said about the Roma people, nor the police violence used against the DAL [DAL stands for ‘Droit au logement’, or ‘Right to housing’. The events referred to happened in October 2013]”.
To those who say it’s damaging public goods, Matjules reckons that there’s no problem so long as the banknote remains usable: “We’re not doing what Serge Gainsbourg did, when he destroyed a banknote by burning it.”
So, is it an offence to destroy or even alter a banknote? In fact, the law punishing such acts was repealed back in 1994. According to the specialist blogger on banking rights, Aurelien Aucher, destroying or damaging a banknote is not illegal, because the note’s rightful owner is its bearer.
For all that, it’s not sure if these banknotes have been circulating for a long time. According to some online users, banks tend to withdraw them from circulation as soon as they’re damaged.