French citizens hoping to revive the Yellow Vest movement last month were disappointed when their efforts were thwarted by police.
“I think I saw more security forces on the street than protestors,” says Amandine Cantournet, who drove 5 hours to attend a protest in Paris on September 21st.
Security forces arrested some 150 people in Paris, clashed with 300 in Montpellier, and employed water cannon and tear gas to disrupt a group of nearly 1,000 professors in Toulouse.
The event was nothing like last year, when more than 300,000 participated in violent demonstrations and President Macron’s approval rating dropped to 20%.
“We have a bizarre situation where [the movement] is still there,” says French political science researcher Bruno Cautres. “Even if you have fewer people demonstrating…we have never seen that before in France.”
The Yellow Vest (gilets jaunes) movement began in November 2018 in response to a proposed fuel tax that would have pushed the price of diesel fuel up by 25 cents per gallon.
Protestors said the tax would disproportionally affect rural motorists who commute to work.
The protests quickly evolved into a working-class revolt against President Macron, with French citizens demanding lower taxes on the poor, higher taxes on the rich, better public services, and fair representation.
By January 2019, nearly 3,000 police and civilians had been injured and at least 10 people had been killed.
President Macron responded to the protests by suspending the fuel tax and embarking on a months-long tour to speak with residents in hundreds of towns throughout the country. He announced a series of reforms in April, and his 2020 budget plan includes $10 billion in tax cuts to households and $1.2 billion to businesses.
The movement, which has lost most of its momentum, was unsuccessful in its attempts to participate in the European Parliament elections in May.
“The movement has always said it needs to be structured to be effective,” argues Thierry Paul Valette, one of the movement’s leaders. “We must show the country that we are engaged…So many of our grievances come from being shut out of local politics for too long. We need to turn that discourse around. And what better way to do that than to show up on the political stage?”
Last month, the group presented a list of candidates for municipal elections in Paris.
We can expect something to happen on November 17th (the movement’s one-year anniversary), but I doubt it will be anything like 2018. Polls suggest current support for the Yellow Vest movement has dropped from 75% (last November) to 40%.
The demands of the protestors are largely the result of the high cost of living and increases in taxes in France to cut government deficits. The amazing thing is that people all over the world have been empathetic, even in some third world countries that have nowhere near the standard of living of France.
The U.S. also has a deficit problem that will be with us for generations to come. But our growth rate is higher and our economy more robust so we may fare better. I’m honestly not sure…
Some quick conspiracy theory stuff if you are interested. These are flat out guesses by some very smart people. At some point, when our deficit is between $30 trillion and $40 trillion, it becomes unsustainable, and inflation hits us very hard, pushing us into a depression. Our bad economy causes Mexico, South Africa and Saudi Arabia to fail Venezuela style (there are reasons why these countries are lynchpin countries), causing a worldwide cascade of failures, leading to widespread war for resources, and triggering starvation on a massive scale.
Of course, others say that Climate Change will have already destroyed the earth by then.
Scary stuff, huh?