France’s Gilets Jaunes

By Beatrix Soudan

By Beatrix Soudan

 

 

For the past few days, France has been experiencing turmoil due to the government’s raise of taxes, particularly targeting fuel in the pursuit of its environmental policies. The rise of the cost of living and its impact on lower- and middle-class people and workers sparked rage within the nation, which for the past few months has already felt disenchanted with Macron and his administration. The discontent has been exemplified by the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow vests) movement that took the country by storm.

Who are they? 

The movement began on social media and has been growing since then. This grassroots initiative from the French people is even more rebellious and unusual than other past protests, as it is not affiliated to any political party, public figure or syndicates. The lack of affiliation sends a clear signal of the French discontent over the current political state of the country, and its rejection of it.

The movement has had broad support, as nearly a quarter of the population expressed its support of it, and 80% wanted the taxation on fuel to be reversed by the government. Most importantly (and alarmingly for the administration), more than half of the people who voted for Macron backed the movement.

A call for action:

The call for action was heard loud and clear since an estimated 280,000 angered French citizens went down to the streets and blocked motorways, roundabouts and bridges. However, the peaceful protest took a dark turn when various incidents broke out throughout the country. A woman was killed, an elderly man was injured, all because of agitated drivers that drove through crowds blocking them. At the same time in Paris, protesters were met by police throwing tear gas into the crowd as they tried to approach the Elysée. In the end, hundreds were injured over the weekend during the protests.

Today, there is still uncertainty around the whole situation and about how it will play out. The government has been, for the most part, unresponsive and seemingly unwilling to compromise. Protesters will go back to the streets this weekend, 25thof November, and will continue blocking the roads, hoping to have their voice heard and for the government to reverse its policy.  The forces of order will be out in strength for fears that the movement will be hijacked by rioters from the extreme left and right.

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