The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

French protesters attempted a coup d’etat. They didn’t succeed.

Fireworks burst above the Eiffel Tower in Paris on Tuesday as part of France's annual Bastille Day celebrations. (Francois Xavier Marit/AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the French celebrated Bastille Day, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris by angry crowds on July 14, 1789.

Exactly 226 years later, protesters attempted to start a new French Revolution by trying to persuade the military to overthrow the government.

Their revolution ended, however, when police noticed that the protesters lacked official approval to hold their demonstration. About 300 of them were briefly detained and asked for their identification, according to reports in French media.

The organizers, a group called Mouvement du 14 Juillet (the July 14 Movement), said that about 500 protesters had joined the march through Paris, which ended in front of France's National Assembly. The newspaper Le Monde, however, counted only about 300 protesters. The paper described the movement as an "heterogenous accumulation of conspiracy theorists."

Speaking to the French magazine Inrockuptibles, the group's spokeswoman said there was a need for

an uprising. "The military will have a choice to make, and many people hope that they will join us. Then we will take control of strategic buildings  such as the Elysée, Matignon, the Luxembourg Palace and National Assembly," she said, referring to the presidential palace, the prime minister's office, the seat of the Senate and the lower house of parliament.

On the group's Web site, the organizers state that their goal is to lead France into "a new future. The time has come and nothing can stop it." Given that the site prominently features a dove, signifying peace, it appears likely that Tuesday's coup was primarily supposed to be of a symbolic nature.