The March of the Yellow Vests

Caption: "Les Gilets Jaunes" wrote messages of protest on the backs of their vests. This vest reads, "the time for revolt has come."

Grayson McDowell, Staff Writer

Alert: This story deals with serious, adult situations occurring in France. While the story is covered by mainstream media, we encourage approaching this information with maturity.

On December 1, many across the globe could not believe the reports: Paris, the city of lights, saw fires burning in the streets, pavement stones lobbed at riot police, and tear gas filling the air around l’Arc de Triomphe. Civil unrest has stricken France in the past month due to a hike in taxes and a grassroots movement called “Les Gilets Jaunes” (or “the Yellow Vests”) which is determined to halt and reverse the current French administration’s policies.

Les Gilets Jaunes began protesting the hike in carbon emission taxes in early November. The movement claims its actions stem from being fed up with President Emmanuel Macron’s aloofness, elitism, and supposed attacks on the French working class. Macron has hiked taxes on fuel and gasoline to over forty and fifty percent in an effort to protect the environment.

When these gas taxes take effect in 2019, they will hit the middle-class suburbans of France the hardest.

As a part of their demonstrations, over two thousand road blocks were organized with the aid of social media. Over two hundred thousand people were involved—yet there were no leaders of this movement. Wearing bright yellow vests, French blue-collars took to the streets to stop oncoming traffic and make themselves very visible.

In late November and early December, protests began in Paris, the capital of France, and this is where the most violence has occurred. The CRS (les Compagnies républicaines de sécurité), highly trained and specialized, were tasked with dispersing the crowd and opening the streets of Paris once again.

Disparate factions of protestors were present for different reasons though all against the president. Men and women shouted “the guillotine for Macron” while others pleaded with the riot police to allow them to protest peacefully. Picket signs proclaimed “the real troublemakers are heads of state” and framed Macron as a king. The French flag flew in the faces of police formations as did some anarcho-communist flags. Some called for the withdrawal of France from the European Union; others called for a new, sixth republic.

In one incident, a desperate lady ran before the police, threw off her coat, fell to her knees, and shouted “We are not armed! We are not armed d***it! Why are you doing this to us? We are asking you to join us—for the people d***it, for France!–for France, our heritage, our nation, the French people!”

On the day of the protests in Paris, Macron was in Argentina, which dovetailed the assertion of the Yellow Vests that Macron likes being with diplomats and politicians more than with his own people.

Le Média interviewed a lady within clear camera shot of l’Arc de Triomphe. She passionately states, “It’s a shame for France. It’s a shame for the ‘Rights of Man.’ It’s a shame for the Republic, what’s happening today. Look! We are not violent; we are peaceful. We were smoking cigarettes and we were fine and dandy. We tried to talk to the CRS and they told us to get lost because they are afraid of us. But do you really believe that is the solution? People have been in the streets for three weeks starving to death. People say it; they can’t take it anymore, and nobody talks about it. Mr. Macron says we are extremists! We are extremists? Do I look like an extremist? I have been here since the fifteenth until now, the end of the month, to say that the middle class is vulnerable. We live exposed. Mr. Macron, the only thing he has to say to us is ‘You aren’t able to eat? We are going to change your windows.’ That’s all he has tried to say to us…

“I am not against the environment. I sort my garbage. I recycle. I have a garden. But now, we are in the streets because people are not listening to us. We are told that we pollute because we have to take our cars. But, we do not live in Paris; we are in the small towns where we have to go to work, and to work, we have to take our cars. I live in Sarrabère in Bugey beside Ambérieux. It takes me five hours to go to work…

“Macron has to step down because it is a shame, what he is doing. Already, he needs to speak to the people and he doesn’t know it. Today, he should be in France. Today, he should not be in Argentina.”

As night fell, the demonstrations turned into all-out riots in the streets of Paris. Far-left groups vandalized the rich districts of Paris while the working class demonstrators went home in disgust.
So far after four weeks of demonstrations across France, over fourteen hundred people have been arrested. Over six thousand have been injured. Four have died. An overwhelming number of military-grade officers and equipment have finally quelled the uprisings in Paris.

A counter-demonstration of seventeen thousand environmentalists flooded the streets to show their support for the green policies of Macron.

Macron maintained a long silence on the unfolding demonstrations until he addressed the nation on live television on Monday, December 10. His administration has suspended the hike in gas taxes, which are supposed to begin the first of next year, in response to the outcry. The president announced three new measures to be put into place at the beginning of 2019 to pacify the tensions. Macron called upon the government “to do what is necessary” to raise the minimum wage by one hundred euros per month (a six percent increase to about $21,675.25 per year) “without costing the employer one more euro.” He also stated that overtime will be paid “without tax or charge in 2019.” Macron called retirees a “precious part of our nation” and vowed to exempt those who make less than two thousand euros per month (or twenty-seven thousand dollars a year roughly) from the income tax. (The income tax exemption was previously for those who made less than twelve hundred euros per month or roughly sixteen thousand dollars a year). Macron restated his refusal to reinstate the luxury tax (the removal of which had dubbed him “president of the rich”). He condemned the violence and praised the CRS riot police.

Whether or not these proposals, announced for the first time on live television in his speech, will come to fruition in 2019 remains to be seen, and whether they will pacify the masses is even more dubious. Macron did not lay out his proposals in any depth, nor did he justify any of his proposals. Macron does not have the power to command such measures as head of state; he needs the parliament and prime minister of France to go along with him. These remarks were simply to stop a revolt or even a coup d’état