Paris was on lockdown last weekend as 8,000 police officers struggled to contain protestors frustrated by the economic situation in France.
Shops were boarded up, tourist attractions were closed, and subway stations were shut down to prevent damage.
As many as 89,000 police were dispatched throughout the country to prevent a repeat of the previous weekend, when protestors clad in high-visibility vests vandalized the Arc de Triomphe war memorial and set fire to 200 vehicles.
It was the worst street violence Paris has seen in 50 years.
The protests are bound to have a major impact on the French economy, warns Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. “It’s a catastrophe for commerce, it’s a catastrophe for our economy. We must expect a new slowdown of economic growth at year-end due to the protests.”
In the past month, more than 300,000 people have taken to the streets to express displeasure with President Emmanuel Macron and his policies. Hundreds of people have been injured and hundreds more have been detained
At least four people have been killed.
The protests have been particularly damaging to retailers expecting high sales during the holiday season.
The Yellow Vest movement began as a protest against a gas tax increase designed to curb climate change. Over the past month, the protest has evolved into a working-class revolt against President Macron and his policies.
The movement has continued despite Macron’s December 5th promise to postpone the fuel tax. This month, the protest spilled into Belgium and the Netherlands (although neither nation is planning a fuel tax increase).
In Belgium, “protestors appeared to hail at least in part from a populist movement that is angry at government policy in general and what it sees as the widening gulf between mainstream politicians and the voters who put them in power,” notes ABC News. “Some in Belgium appeared intent only on confronting police.”
The sentiment is similar in France, where Macron has been criticized for easing taxes on the rich and increasing taxes on retirees. According to polls, just 11% of the population believe Macron understands the concerns of the working class; up to 70% support the protests.
“Macron came out of the banks and finance, and that goes down very badly for many people,” complains Paris protestor Thierry Paul Valette. “We do not like rich people in France.”
Last week in Brussels, hundreds of people wearing yellow vests called for the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel. Protestors carried banners reading “social winter is coming” and fought law enforcement with rocks, flares, and fireworks. At least two police cars were set on fire.
In the Dutch city of Rotterdam, protestors in yellow vests marched through the streets singing patriotic songs and handing out flowers.
“Our children are hard-working people, but they have to pay taxes everywhere. You can’t get housing anymore,” complained Ieneke Lambermont, 67. “The social welfare net we grew up with is gone…The government is not there for the people. It is there to protect its own interests.”
In the meantime, French politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have called for new elections.
Macron’s approval rating has dropped to 23%.
Editor’s note: Remember this stems from taxes that are required by the Paris Accords, the world treaty to fight global climate change. Fortunately, Trump has pulled the U.S. out of that treaty.