Last Saturday marked the fourth consecutive Saturday where yellow vest activists from France’s political Right and Left took to the streets and clashed with French police in cities throughout the country.
What is now being called the Yellow Vest Movement initially began as a response to increased fuel taxes – something that would have disproportionately affected those living in the countryside who depend on their cars to work. Following the third consecutive weekend of protests, Macron and the French government decided to scrap the fuel tax hike. This concession, however, failed to stop 136,000 angry protestors from taking to French streets yet again this weekend to voice their collective outrage with the Macron government.
Before this weekend, these riots were being described as the worst riots that France has seen in over 50 years – since the events in May of 1968.
This weekend, violence escalated to an entirely new level as protestors were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, armored personnel carriers outfitted with water cannons and stormtroopers with batons.
89,000 police were deployed in Paris to protect against aggressive actions taken by protestors. Christophe Castaner, France’s Interior Minister, has stated that 135 people were injured this weekend, including 17 police officers. Around 1,000 individuals were arrested. In the four weekends of protests, at least four people have been killed.
Videos of gruesome injuries and police beating protestors mercilessly with clubs while they lay helpless on the ground have surfaced and are currently circulating the internet.
The nation’s capital, Paris, suffered the brunt of the Yellow Vest Movement’s fury. Cars were tipped over and set ablaze, buildings were vandalized, windows were smashed, and shops were looted.
Despite the negative aspects of the protest, what makes the Yellow Vests especially exciting and unusual, is the fact that its ranks are made up of individuals of all ages who come from both extreme ends of the political spectrum –far left and far right, and everything in between. Among those protesting are right and left wing populists from the working and middle classes, anarchists, nationalists, communists and fascists of all ages.
This is a political complexion rarely seen in recent protest movements around the world and especially in the US. For example, if we look back to Occupy Wall Street in 2011, it was clear that the movement was comprised mostly of individuals from the political left. Furthermore, last year’s protests in Charlottesville were prompted by those from the political right.
We have yet to see a protest movement in America where those from both the right and left can unite under a common banner. In the US, the only time we see right wingers and left wingers occupying the same space at a protest is when they’re violently at one another’s throats. Perhaps, in this regard, we do have something that we can learn from the French.
AUTHOR: Mr. Anderson