As police fired hundreds of gas canisters, used water cannons, and hurled stun grenades injuring hundreds of “yellow vests” to control crowds looting and vandalizing, one thing is clear.
France is hurting. To the Mayor of Paris’s 8th district, “We are in a state of insurrection.”
The protests which were originally organized over planned hikes in diesel taxes (the main fuel source in France) have widened into an uprising against President Emmanuel Macron’s economic reforms.
Who are the “yellow vests”?
Thousands have taken to the streets with high-visibility jackets which all French drivers must keep in their cars. Due to that massively visible marking, it has become the symbol of their rather divided complaints.
The first protest began on November 17th directly against hikes in fuel taxes, which increased the cost by roughly 20%, in order to deal with “climate change and protect the environment” according to Macron.
The movement also has its roots from small towns and the rural population, due to the inability to adequately respond to changing fuel costs, and has now spread to include the sentiment that Macron’s policies directly and disproportionately benefit the elite city inhabitants of France.
On Monday, the protests also included ambulance workers and some high schools for the first time, with students upset about education reforms.
What do they want?
Given the rather unorganized nature of the protests and the lack of a clear leader, their demands are fairly spread out.
The movement has issued more than 40 demands to the government.
Among them were a minimum pension, widespread changes to the tax system, and a reduction in the retirement age.
How big is the “yellow vest” movement?
Nearly 300,000 protested in the streets across the country during the first blockade initiated on November 17th.
According to Aljezera, “about 106,000, took to the streets a week later, on November 24th, when a protest in Paris took a particularly violent turn.”
Last Saturday, roughly 75,000 demonstrators, were counted across the country in the afternoon, according to the interior ministry.
What is going on in Paris?
Shops have been looted in some of the most famous areas of Paris.
Some sectors saw their revenues hit by between 15 and 50 percent, according to reports.
While Trucking federations have said they had suffered operating losses of 400 million euros ($453m) due to protesters blocking highways and toll stations as well as fuel depots
The Arc de Triomphe was besmirched with graffiti and vandalized inside. “The ‘yellow vests’ will triumph,” one scrawled slogan said.
“Now there’s a well-behaved class,” a police officer was heard saying on video.
Mantes-la-Jolie : des images choquantes de lycéens interpellés par la police https://t.co/hyP1LS4NBV
— Le Monde (@lemondefr) December 6, 2018
The town’s police chief told Le Monde newspaper that those arrested were suspected of taking part in an “armed gathering,” adding that officers had wanted to break up a situation that was getting “out of control.”
More than 400 were arrested during the clashes.
Meanwhile, Jason Herbert, a representative of the “yellow vests” who met briefly on Friday with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, said he and others had to bow out of talks with the government because of threats from fellow demonstrators.
He said the movement was radicalizing.
This perhaps most worrying as four people have already been killed and hundreds injured in clashes or accidents stemming from the protests.
What is the government’s response?
The Prime Minister has officially suspended the planned increases to taxes on the cost of gas, electricity will be suspended for three months while the taxes on fuel were suspended for least six months.
This represents the first major U-turn by Macron’s administration and a serious blow to Macron’s credibility and ability to run the nation.
Macron’s approval rating had already hit a new low of 23 percent, according to an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Paris Match and Sud Radio published on Tuesday.