- Protestors calling themselves the “Yellow Vests” and donning high-visibility tops have been violently clashing with police in Paris in protest of French President Emmanuel Macron for weeks.
- On Saturday, the third weekend of demonstrations saw Paris’ Arc de Triomphe stormed and vandalised in protests the police met with riot gear and tear gas.
- After initially dismissing the protesters, Macron called for his Prime Minister to meet with the group after Saturday’s destruction.
- Here’s what the group wants and what has happened so far.
The French protest group “Des Gilets Jaunes,” or the “Yellow Vests,” have lowered Paris to its knees for a third weekend in a row by burning cars, smashing in store-fronts, defacing national symbols, and clashing with police.
Over 36,000 people protested on Saturday across France, but 5,000 of those were in Paris, where a riot against police started, resulting in 412 arrests, according to authorities.
The cost of the rioting – the worst in Paris since 1968 – could reportedly be in the hundreds of millions of euros.
On Saturday, police fired 12,000 canisters of tear gas and water cannons at protestors in multiple street battles, according to Radio One Europe, which injured at least 80 people.
The protest has spread across France, since starting on November 17, into Belgium and Italy, but Paris’ protests are the most violent examples, as others have been mainly road-blocks and peaceful marches.
Who are they and what do they want?
The Yellow Vests mobilized over rising gas prices mainly caused by a new tax on diesel fuel which has jacked up prices 16% in 2018.
Diesel went from an average €1.24 ($US1.41) per litre to €1.48 ($US1.69,) according to UFIP, France’s oil industry federation,cited by CNN.
Macron’s government said this is to be more environmental and to go green, but in rural areas which don’t have public transport or car sharing services, driving is the main option. Macron said these taxes are necessary to help make the country a low-emission economy.
The group is not part of a political party, and their anger has also spread beyond fuel prices to the French government as whole.
Protestors in Paris told the Guardian they were marching as living costs have risen, unemployment is growing amongst the young, and the government is doing little to help the poorest in society.
President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership is central to this anger and they say he and his government don’t care about ordinary people.
Scrawled across the Arc de Triomphe, a monument to those that stormed the Bastille and dismantled the ruling royal authority in the city, protesters wrote: “We have the right to revolt,” “Macron resign,” and “The Yellow Vests will triumph!”
What are the yellow vests they wear all about?
The price of fuel is central to the group’s manifesto, so members all wear these high-visibility yellow vests which all French motorists are forced by a 2008 law to have in their cars or vans when on the road.
The protests are widespread across France
During the first official protest, on November 17, one person died and 227 people were injured across France. There were 2,000 separate protests and 73 people were taken into police custody,CNN quoted the Interior Ministry as saying.
The first protest was mainly organised through a website, set up to coordinate protests across France.
At the second set of protests, on November 24, 5,000 police were deployed in Paris to contain protestors around the Champs-Élysées, and barriers were erected to funnel the crowd’s path.
But some set fires, ripped down street signs, and pulled up paving stones and hurled them at police, the BBC reported.
French officials said 40 people were arrested and 19 people were injured, including four police officers.
They now have Macron’s ear
In the aftermath, Macron tweeted: “Shame on those who attacked them. Shame on those who have abused other citizens and journalists. Shame on those who tried to intimidate the elect. No place for this violence in the Republic.”
Most recently, in Paris on Saturday – December 1 – 100 cars were burnt, dozens of restaurants and shops were sacked, the Arc de Triomphe was defaced, and Paris’ tourist areas were littered with debris.
On Monday, after returning from the G20 summit in Argentina, Macron called an emergency meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who he instructed to meet with the Yellow Vests on Tuesday to hear out their demands.
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