President Emmanuel Macron of France has figured out, once again, that the citizens do not respond well to reform. Thousands of demonstrators known as the “yellow jackets” planned a protest showing their disagreement with the recently planned tax hikes on gasoline. Although this was the original reason, it has morphed into an anti-Macron and anti-government movement about inequality and poor living standards among the middle class.
These yellow vest activists have gained their name through wearing bright neon yellow vests that every car is required to have in case of emergency. These protestors have blocked off highways and main roads to send a message to their fellow citizens. Approximately 280,000 people claim to be a part of the Yellow Vest movement. After 13 continuous weekends of rallies, a Saturday rally in mid-November turned violent. About 5,000 demonstrators gathered on busy Champs-Élysées Avenue and were met with tear gas and water cannons by the French authorities. More than 250 protestors were arrested with nearly 100 people injured. Multiple have died in car accidents from violent outbursts.
An anonymous protestor said, “The government is not listening. Revolution cannot happen without violence.” For weeks, peaceful protests on this matter had continued without any response or action by Macron and the French government. The Yellow Vest activists feel that their voice is not being heard and feel the need to express their anger through violent protests. “We want our dignity back and we want to be able to live from our work, which is absolutely not the case today,” stated Jason Herbert, a spokesman for the movement, after walking out of talks with the prime minister.
A recent poll showed that only 26% of French citizens have a favorable opinion of Macron and his economic agenda. Almost eight out of 10 people in France support “Yellow Jacket” protests in a study published by Figaro Newspaper and Public Radio in France. Protesters have placed anti-Macron graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe.
The French protests have sparked copycat demonstrations in Belgium.