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|Yellow vests movement|
Gilets jaunes protests
|Part of Protests against Emmanuel Macron|
A gilets jaunes demonstration in Vesoul, eastern France
|Date||17 November 2018 – ongoing|
|Methods||Protests, civil disobedience, barricades, blocking traffic, disabling radars, rioting, vandalism, arson and looting.|
|Status||Ongoing, as of December 17, 2018.|
|Death(s)||8 civilians (in France)|
~200+ injured police officers
|Arrested||1600 people (as of 4 December 2018)|
More than 2300 (8 December 2018 alone)
The yellow vests movement (French: Mouvement des gilets jaunes, pronounced [ʒilɛ ʒon]) is a political movement that started online in May 2018 and led to demonstrations that began in France on 17 November 2018 and rapidly spread to Wallonia, Belgium. Motivated by rising fuel prices, the high cost of living and claims that a disproportionate burden of the government's tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes, especially in rural and peri-urban areas, protesters have called for reductions in fuel taxes, the reintroduction of the solidarity tax on wealth, the raising of the minimum wage, and the resignation of Emmanuel Macron as President of France.
The movement's leaders chose the yellow vest as a symbol because, since 2008, a law has required all French motorists to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles. As a result, reflective vests were widely available, inexpensive, and symbolic. By early December 2018, the symbol had become increasingly common from Europe to Iraq, as different groups made use of their high-visibility vests to draw attention to their agendas.
The issue around which the French movement centered at first was the projected 2019 increase in fuel taxes, particularly on diesel fuel.
Since the 1950s, the French government has subsidized the production of diesel engines. In particular, since 1980 Peugeot has been at the forefront of diesel technology. A reduction in VAT taxes for corporate fleets also increased the prevalence of diesel cars in France.
The price of petrol (SP95-E10) decreased during 2018, from €1.47 per litre in January to €1.43 per litre in the last week of November.
Prices of petrol and diesel fuel increased by 15 percent and 23 percent respectively between October 2017 and October 2018. The world market purchase price of petrol for distributors increased by 28 percent over the previous year; for diesel, by 35 percent. Costs of distribution increased by 40 percent. VAT included, diesel taxes increased by 14 percent over one year and petrol taxes by 7.5 percent. The tax increase had been 7.6 cents per litre on diesel and 3.9 cents on petrol in 2018, with a further increase of 6.5 cents on diesel and 2.9 cents on petrol planned for 1 January 2019.
The taxes collected on the sale of fuel are:
The protesters criticize Édouard Philippe's second government for making individuals liable for the bulk of the cost of the carbon tax. As the carbon tax has progressively been ramping up to meet ecological objectives, many who have chosen fossil fuel-based heating for their homes, outside of city centers—where a car is required—are displeased. President Macron attempted to dispel these concerns in early November by offering special subsidies and incentives.
Diesel prices in France increased by 16 percent in 2018, with taxes on both petrol and diesel increasing at the same time and a further tax increase planned for 2019, making diesel as expensive as petrol. President Macron is bearing the brunt of the protesters' anger for his extension of policies implemented under François Hollande's government.
One of the first known demonstrations in France against the taxation of petrol prices dates back to 1933 in Lille. The movement against tax increases also evokes the poujadism of the 1950s, which mobilized the middle classes and was articulated around a tax revolt.
The protesters claim that the fuel tax is intended to finance tax cuts for big business, with some critics such as Dania Koleilat Khatib claiming that spending should be cut instead. Macron said the goal of the administration's economic reform program is to increase France's competitiveness in the global economy, and says that the fuel tax is intended to discourage fossil-fuel use. Many of the yellow jackets are primarily motivated by economic difficulties due to low salaries and high energy prices. The majority of the yellow jacket movement wants to fight climate change, but are opposed to forcing the working class and the poor to pay for a problem caused by multinational corporations.
A woman from the Seine-et-Marne department started a petition on the change.org website in May 2018 that reached 300,000 signatures by mid-October. Parallel to this petition, two men from the same department launched a Facebook event for 17 November to "block all roads" and thus protest against an increase in fuel prices they considered excessive, stating that this increase was the result of the tax increase. One of the viral videos around this group launched the idea of using yellow jackets.
According to French scholar Béatrice Giblin, comparisons between the gilets jaunes and the Bonnets Rouges—who opposed a new eco-tax in 2013—were inapt because the latter "had been taken in hand by real leaders, such as the mayor of Carhaix, or the great bosses of Brittany" whereas that was not the case for the yellow jackets. The movement is organised in a leaderless, horizontal fashion. Informal leaders can emerge, only to be immediately rejected and threatened with violence by other demonstrators. According to John Lichfield, some in the movement take their hatred of politicians to extend it even to any "would-be politicians who emerge from their own ranks." The yellow jacket movement is not associated with a specific political party or trade union and has spread largely by social media.
Five Le Monde journalists studied the yellow vests' forty-two directives and concluded that two-thirds were "very close" to the position of the "radical left" (Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Benoît Hamon, Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud), that nearly half were "compatible with" the position of the "far right" (Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and Marine Le Pen), and that all were "very far removed" from "liberal" policies (Emmanuel Macron and François Fillon). Etienne Girard, writing for Marianne, says the one figure that gathers wide support in the movement has been dead for thirty-two years: the former humourist and presidential candidate Coluche.
Media gate-keepers were shocked at the hostility they felt during the movement. BFM TV, for example, decided every journalist they sent out should be accompanied by a bodyguard on 8 December, because of the strong aversion the yellow jackets had shown for the network.
According to Stéphane Sirot, a specialist in the history of French trade unionism, the unions were hesitant to join forces with the yellow jackets because the movement included people trade unions traditionally do not represent (business owners and the self-employed) as well as people who simply did not want to negotiate. The presence of far-right elements in the movement was also off-putting to the CGT.
A significant number of misleading images and information have been circulated on social media concerning the protests. According to Pascal Froissart, the leaderless, horizontal, aspect of the movement contributes to the dissemination of disinformation, as nobody is in charge of public relations or of gate-keeping on social media.
Adam Gopnik writes that gilets jaunes can be viewed as part of a series of French street protests stretching back to at least the strikes of 1995. Citing historian Herrick Chapman, he suggests General de Gaulle's centralisation of power when creating the French Fifth Republic was so excessive that it made street protests the only "dynamic alternative to government policy." The 1 December riots in Paris were widely acknowledged to have been the most violent since May 1968. Paris-based journalist John Lichfield said that the 1968 events had a joyous side to them, largely absent from the yellow vest movement, but that both movements were similar in that they lacked recognized leaders, much as the banlieues riots of 2005 had. Some have made comparisons to the French Revolution, others to Orbanism.
The protests began on 17 November 2018, and attracted over 300,000 people across France with protesters constructing barricades and blocking roads. John Lichfield, a journalist who witnessed the riots, described them as insurrectional.
In addition to roads, protesters also blocked as many as ten fuel depots. On this first day of protests, a 63-year old pensioner was run over by a motorist in Le Pont-de-Beauvoisin while she was demonstrating at the roundabout that allows access to a commercial zone. A motorcyclist died after being struck the same day by a van trying to get around a barricade. By 21 November 585 civilians had been injured, sixteen severely, and 115 police officers, three seriously.
Protests also occurred in the French overseas region of Réunion, where the situation deteriorated into looting and riots. Schools on the island were closed for three days after protesters blocked access to roads. On 21 November, President Macron ordered the deployment of troops to the island to calm the violence.
With the protests in Paris having raised tensions the previous week, the Interior Ministry agreed to allow a gathering on 24 November at the Champ de Mars. The protests attracted 106,000 people all across France, only 8,000 of whom were in Paris, where the protests turned violent. Protesters lit fires in the streets, tore down signs, built barricades and pulled up cobblestones. Police resorted to tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. On 26 November, an official estimated that the riots in Paris during the two previous days had cost up to €1.5m in damage. Two hundred additional workers were assigned to assist with the cleanup and repair work.
A protest called "Act 3 – Macron Quits" was organised for 1 December.
Yellow jackets briefly occupied the runway at Nantes Atlantique Airport and prevented access to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. Vinci Autoroutes reported tollbooths were blocked on 20 major arteries all across France.
In Marseille, where demonstrations have been frequent since the 5 November collapse of a building and the evacuation of the surrounding neighbourhood, an 80-year-old Algerian woman trying to close her shutters was hit by shards from a police tear gas canister, later dying while in surgery. A second motorist was killed on the third weekend after crashing his van into stopped lorries at a barricade on the Arles bypass.
More than 100 cars were burned in Paris during the protest on 1 December, and the Arc de Triomphe was vandalised. On the following Monday, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo estimated the property damages at €3–4 million.
Protests turned violent for the second week in a row in Le Puy-en-Velay. Civil unrest marred the Festival of Lights in both Lyon and Saint-Étienne. The A6 motorway was again blocked north of Lyon in Villefranche-sur-Saône.
Paris experienced protests for the fourth consecutive week. Many shops were boarded up in anticipation of violence, with The Louvre, Eiffel Tower and the Paris Opera also closed. Police assembled steel fences around the Élysée Palace and deployed armoured vehicles on the streets in an attempt to limit the violence.
In his 10 December speech to the French people in response to the movement, Macron pledged a €100 per month increase in the minimum wage in 2019, the exclusion of charges and taxes on overtime hours in 2019, and on any 2018 end-of-year bonuses paid to employees. Macron likewise announced that pensioners on low incomes would be excluded from an increase in the CSG in 2019. He stood by his replacement of the solidarity tax on wealth with increases in property taxes. The broadcast was watched by more than 23 million people, making it the most-viewed political speech in French history. After investigation, it became apparent that the minimum wage itself would not be raised by €100 a month but that those eligible would see an increase in the activity bonus paid by the CAF.
On 11 December, after having declared a state of economic and social emergency the day before, Macron invited representatives of the French banks to the Elysée to announce that the banks had agreed to freeze their prices in 2019 and to permanently limit incident-related fees to €25 a month for people in extreme financial difficulty, as determined by the Bank of France.
In the wake of the 2018 Strasbourg attack, the government asked protesters to stay off the streets. According to the Paris prefecture estimates, there were 8,000 police for 2,200 demonstrators in Paris. The Minister of the Interior estimated that 66,000 people protested in France on the 15th of December. Conflict arose in Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon and Paris. At the end of the day, the Interior Minister called for the roundabouts, occupied since the 17 November, to be liberated.
On 29 November, François Ruffin, the founder of hard-left Fakir (fr), organised a mobilizing meeting, at which Frédéric Lordon spoke, saying "If the Nuitdeboutistes who got all wound up into deforestation and anti-specist commissions can't get moving when this happens, then they are the last of the last".
Angered by Macron's education reforms and plans to change the baccalauréat (a secondary-school leaving exam), students protested in cities across France. Students expressed concern that these reforms will lead to further inequalities of access to higher education between students in urban, peri-urban, and rural areas.
On 6 December, over 140 students were arrested outside a school in Mantes-la-Jolie. A video of the mass arrest—showing students kneeling with their hands behind their heads—inspired indignation. Jean-Michel Blanquer, the French Education Minister, said that although he was "shocked" by the scene, it needed to be viewed "in context". On the same day, France Bleu reported that Saint-Étienne was "under siege". It was in this context that the mayor of Saint-Étienne suggested, first by tweet then by press release, that the Festival of Lights in neighbouring Lyon be cancelled to free up police in the region.
Overall trade losses of €2 billion have been reported as a result of the blocked roundabouts leading to commercial zones and closures of urban chains. The chain supermarkets, in particular, have reported that traffic has been down significantly, estimating the overall loss at around €0.6 billion as of 13 December.
As of 15 December, 8 fatalities had been linked to the protests.
|17 November 2018||1||pedestrian + car|
|19 November 2018||1||motorbike + lorry|
|1/2 December 2018 (at night)||1||car + HGV/LGV|
|1 December 2018||1||stray tear gas grenade (Marseille)|
|10 December 2018||1||car + HGV/LGV|
|12/13 December 2018 (at night)||1||pedestrian + HGV/LGV|
|14 December 2018||2||car + HGV/LGV |
car + car
In late November 2018, polls showed that the movement has widespread support in France (ranging from 73 percent to 84 percent). An opinion poll conducted after 1 December events found that 72 percent of French people supported the "gilets jaunes" and that 85 percent were opposed to the violence in Paris.
Truckers were targeted by protesters, and the industry made their displeasure with the situation known to the government in an open letter. Two labor unions, CGT andFO who had initially called on truckers to start striking Sunday, retracted their call on 7 December 2018, after having consulted the government and their membership.
The Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, blamed Marine Le Pen, Macron's opponent in the 2017 presidential election, and her Rassemblement National party for the violence on 24 November 2018 after she had reportedly urged people to go to the Champs Élysées. Le Pen responded that letting people assemble on the Champs Élysées was the government's responsibility and accused the Minister of the Interior of trying to increase the tension to discredit the movement.
Although President Macron had been insisting that the fuel tax increases would go through as planned, on 4 December 2018 the government announced that the tax hikes would be put on hold, with Prime Minister Édouard Philippe saying that "no tax deserves to endanger the unity of the nation". On Sunday, 9 December, the Elysée called trade unions and employers' organizations to invite them to meet on Monday 10 December so Macron could "present the measures" he intends to announce.
On 10 December, Macron condemned the violence but acknowledged the protesters' anger as "deep, and in many ways legitimate". He subsequently promised a minimum wage increase of €100 per month from 2019, cancelled a planned tax increase for low-income pensioners, and made overtime payments as well as end-of-year bonuses tax free. However, Macron refused to reinstate a wealth tax he scrapped upon entering into office.
While some protestors in other countries have been seen in yellow vests, these protests have been small (with the exception of the Francophone Belgian protests).
Riot police in Brussels were pelted with billiard balls, cobblestones and rocks on 30 November, and responded with water cannons; 60 arrests were made for disturbing the public order. Several oil depots had been blocked in Wallonia as of 16 November 2018, though protesters' attempts to block the Russian Lukoil depot in Brussels were quickly thwarted by police. The movement is now working to form a party for the Belgian federal elections in 2019 under the name Mouvement citoyen belge. On 8 December, when protestors calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel tried to breach a riot barricade, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. The protesters involved were throwing stones, flares and other objects at police, resulting in around 100 arrests.
According to Kim Willsher of The Guardian, the gilets jaunes protest has inspired imitation in Italy with a pro-government movement, citing an Italian organizer saying, "We are inspired by the French gilet jaunes, [...] But we are motivated by other issues. We, unlike the French, support our government. What we protest against is Europe. We want Europe to no longer interfere with Italian politics."
Anti-government protesters in Bulgaria began wearing high-visibility vests from 16 November.
In Serbia, civil rights organization "Združena akcija Krov nad glavom" started using yellow vests in its protests to oppose the eviction of a resident in the Mirijevo district of Belgrade and to show solidarity and common cause with French Yellow vest movement. Parallel to that, on 4 December, Boško Obradović, the leader of the far-right Dveri party, called for demonstrations about high fuel prices in Serbia on 8 December.
In Poland on 12 December, a group of farmers blocked the A2 motorway 30 kilometers outside of Warsaw, demanding compensation for pigs they were required to slaughter, and protesting the importation of Ukrainian produced unlabeled with respect to its country of origin.
In Egypt, a lawyer was detained for 15 days after posting a picture of himself wearing a high-visibility jacket in support of the protests in France. Sales restrictions on yellow reflective vests were introduced in an apparent attempt to prevent opposition groups from staging copycat protests inspired by those in France.
In Israel, economic uncertainty and corruption led to a "yellow vest" rally at the Azrieli Center Mall in Tel Aviv on 14 December. Similarly, protesters in Jordan criticizing the economic situation in the country began donning high-visibility jackets as protests spread outside of the capital Amman.
In Tunisia, a derivative group, the Gilets Rouges (Red Vests), emerged on Facebook, calling for protests against the economic situation in the country.
In Canada, protestors in Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces opposing a range of issues from a government carbon tax to the recent signing of a United Nations migration pact also wore road-safety vests. A protest in Edmonton led to scuffles between them and counter-protesters, some of whom also wore high-visibility vests.
translated title: A forced eviction in Mirievo stopped by the "yellow vest" activists
The gilets jaunes—the "yellow vests", so named for the safety jackets they wear to public protests—have effectively transformed a single-issue protest into the French #resistance with a long list of objections against Macron and European neoliberalism. At least for now.
There is little doubt among scientists and economists — many of whom are in Poland for the current round of climate negotiations — that putting a price on carbon is essential in the effort to reduce fossil fuel dependence. . . . [However many] analysts say the French tax was not politically deft, falling hardest on people outside French cities who were already feeling the pain of stagnating incomes and who do not have the same mass transportation options as urban residents.
Depuis les grèves de 1995, la conscience de ce que les médias censément contre-pouvoirs sont des auxiliaires des pouvoirs, n’a cessé d’aller croissant.
Chaque journaliste sur le terrain est accompagné d'un agent de sécurité, souligne Hervé Béroud, le directeur général de la chaîne. Cet agent est à même d'évaluer la dangerosité de la situation et d'intervenir en cas d'agression du journaliste.
[T]he rhetoric of the movement, with its insistence that there is a globalized élite that, by manipulating finance and capital, are undoing French civilization, rhymes ominously with the classic forms of French right-wing nationalism, including indigenous French anti-Semitism.
Si les Nuit deboutistes qui se sont passionnés dans les commissions antispécistes ou déforestation ne bougent pas quand il se passe ça, alors ils sont les derniers des derniers.
'On demande une égalité entre les lycées ruraux et les grands lycées urbains. Ils ont des options qu’on ne peut pas avoir ici', explique Anthony, élève de terminale L, l’un des initiateurs de la mobilisation.
c’est un bac par établissement de part l’importance du contrôle continu. Un bac de centre-ville aisé n’aura plus la même valeur qu’un bac de banlieue ou rurale.
La ville est en état de siège depuis ce jeudi matin avec la manifestation des lycéens dans toute la ville.
Le maintien d'une manifestation telle que la fête des Lumières à Lyon nécessitera, par la force des choses, une mobilisation importante des moyens de police au détriment du maintien de l'ordre dans les autres villes de la Région (Gaël Perdriau)
« Peut-être 600 millions d’euros désormais », avançait-on, jeudi 13 décembre, à la Fédération du commerce et de la distribution (FCD) qui défend les intérêts de Carrefour, Casino et autres Auchan.
Les fédérations CGT et FO du secteur du transport routier ont appelé à la grève à partir de dimanche soir 22 heures et pour une durée indéterminée.
Media related to Mouvement des gilets jaunes at Wikimedia Commons