M. Albert came to be regarded as a kind of Languedocian Robin Hood or William Tell, a saintly defender of local rights against brutal and unthinking central power. The "apostle of the wine producers" successfully eluded attempts to arrest him and then turned up in Paris at the height of the crisis and demanded to see the prime minister, Georges Clemenceau.
The protests began with a demonstration by 300 people on 24 March. By 9 June, 600,000 people - by some estimates 800,000 - had blocked the streets of Montpellier (10 times the town's population). M. Albert's organising committee persuaded more than 300 local mayors and town councils - including those of most large towns - to resign en bloc. Local government was closed down. Town hall doors were bricked up.