(Photos) Yellow Vest Protests, Paris
Updated: Jan 23, 2019
France has been rocked by protests since November. French citizens, initially disgruntled by an announced fuel-tax hike, have come to demonstrate against a whole litany of issues and what they say is blatant corruption on the part of politicians and the social elite. Dubbed the "yellow vest" movement or the gilets jaunes, on account of the yellow safety vests than motorists are required to own in France, these protests have transformed into a nebulous nationwide paroxysm of malcontent.
Though leaderless and lacking in a cohesive agenda, the yellow vest movement has succeeded in forcing French President Emmanuel Macron to the negotiating table. Faced with little national support, Macron rolled back the proposed fuel-tax increase, and recently announced an ongoing national debate, a sort of town hall in which citizens will be able to air their complaints and grievances.
Unprecedented as such a move may be, French security forces have been marred by instances of excessive force, brutality, and outright violence, with 10 protesters being killed by the end of 2018.
Contributor David Emanuel attended a protest in Paris, France's capital, in early January, in which he spoke to several protesters in order to try to understand the yellow vest movement at the street level.
By all accounts, much of the movement is coordinated over social media, with a widespread Facebook presence. This allows the movement to gather and respond in a much more fluid and viral manner.
Our contributor followed the gradually growing police presence from the Paris catacombs to La Bastille. Passerby responded to inquiries as to the location of the protest that day with a succinct "everywhere!"
The locus of the protest that day, (in which 8,500 people purportedly attended) was encountered by the Hotel de Ville. The mood was patriotic, with protesters garbed in vests and French flags. A car was parked in the middle of the street, blasting pro-revolutionary music. The police presence, however, was heavy, lending a shade of anxiety to the atmosphere.
The police presence was heaviest near the Arc de Triomphe, with a heavy cordon of riot police, light armored vehicles mounted with water cannons, and even more protesters.
Interestingly enough, though the police admitted folks freely into the protest around the monument, none were allowed to leave. Our contributor was not permitted to exit the area, although he noted that the police denied his request in a courteous manner.
In certain locations, the protests were not only peaceful, but festive. Protesters played music and sang chants, telling the perpetually nearby police that "everybody hates you."
The police eventually proved themselves liberal in their use of tear gas, dousing not only protesters but a pink food truck by the Arc de Triomphe which provides food and water for yellow vests.
However, many protesters were prepared for these crowd control measures, coming out to the streets with their own gas filters and face masks.
The yellow vest movement is vast, powerful, yet divided. Our contributor encountered a man and his son with the flag of "La CGT", the General Confederation of Labour, one of the major labor federations in France. Several nearby drunk protesters began berating them, though eventually they were chastised by other yellow vests.
With their liberal usage of tear gas, the police injured several protesters. Civilian medics were on hand to aid the injured as best they could.
Local police were observed in plain clothes, arresting protesters. They would quickly emerge, then retreat with as much haste into the waiting defensive line of riot police and armored vehicles.