The yellow-vest protests in France continue despite 80,000 security personnel deployed nationwide to tackle the revolt against President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies. On a ninth weekend, thousands of protesters marched through the capital, Paris, as others took to the streets in other cities, including the central city of Bourges. The movement, having waned over the holidays, appeared to have resurged, despite Macron’s promises of billions of euros in tax relief and an upcoming ‘debate’ to address the concerns of the protesters who want deeper changes in France’s economy and politics, seen as favouring the rich.
An estimated 50,000 people had hit the streets in protests across the country on the eighth weekend. Even though the figure is less than the peak numbers at the start of the protests on November 17, it is still higher than in the previous weeks. As many as 10 deaths have been linked with the protests that have involved demonstrations and blockade of roads and fuel depots. Some of the protests even developed into major riots that have been described as the most violent since the students’ uprising of May 1968 against capitalism, consumerism and American imperialism.
The protests had started with motorists opposing continued rise in fuel tax. A 23 per cent rise in the fuel price over a period of 12 months instantly caused a 23 per cent fall in the popularity of President Macron. And within no time, the protests mushroomed into a broad-based popular movement. Yellow vests were chosen as a symbol in line with a 2008 law that requires all French motorists to have high-visibility vests in their vehicles while driving. As a result, reflector vests had become widely available.
The French government seems to have no solution to what is being described as a grassroots movement for economic justice. The protesters are not ready to settle for anything short of the President’s resignation.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14th, 2019.
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