Unrest in France: The Yellow Vest Protest

In the past four weeks, following President Emmanuel Macron’s carbon tax raise, a new movement has brewed in France. The Yellow Vest protests, named after the yellow reflective vests the protesters wear, has shaken the world with its increasing violence, including videos of conflicts between the protesters and the police.

The traces of the movement could be seen in the discontent of the French with the announced tax raises, prominently the fuel price tax, at the beginning of the year. However, The protests started four weeks ago, with the protesters organizing themselves online. With no major leading figure, the protest grew to encompass participants from various social groups and it lacks a universal goal.

Macron claims the tax raise is an environmental measure meant to reduce carbon emissions. The protesters, however accuse him of going against his people and the tax raise benefiting the rich and harming impoverished citizens.

On Saturday, the 1st of December, some protesters took to smashing shop windows and burning cars in Paris. About a hundred people were injured and more than two hundred people were arrested. Other protests in some cities turned violent as well.

The government suspended the raise on Tuesday, December 4th. However, the protests showed no signs of quelling, instead growing stronger as protesters took up more issues, including education reforms. They are also calling for the resignation of President Macron and his government.

“The uprising is instead mostly organic, spontaneous and self-determined. It is mostly about economic class. It is about the inability to pay the bills (…) But it is also about a deep distrust of societal institutions that are perceived as working against the interests of the citizens, and that will make this crisis particularly hard for the government to resolve.” wrote the New York Times.

The weekend brought more videos of the police using teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets to hold off protesters. On the other hand some protesters, assisted by vandal groups, tore down covers from store fronts, but the police were able to better contain the violence than a week before. About 135 people were injured and 1220 taken into custody.

Copycat protests were organised in Netherlands, Hungary and Belgium. In Belgium, around a 100 people were detained.

After a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels, Macron urged the French to return to normal. The fifth Saturday of protests saw a reduced number of protesters compared to previous Saturday which could be due to the Strasbourg attack on Tuesday.

Tija Vrček

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