Paris is Burning: The Yellow Vest Movement


Taken on 1/26/19 - the 11th weekend of the riots in France. The "Yellow Vests" gather at the place de la République to protest. Labeled for reuse by Flickr, credit goes to Olivier Ortelpa. His "Paris, Gilets Jaunes" photo album:

In general, Americans come to think of Paris–and France in general–as a magical place filled with romance, mesmerizing beauty, rich culture and great food. There’s the Eiffel Tower, mimes in the streets and the Louvre: where the Mona Lisa hangs. 

It’s the City of Light, right? 

Well, not at the moment. Things have been getting dark. 

Every weekend since mid-November there have been massive riots in the streets of Paris, and there are surely more to come.

As it’s presented in the media, the protesting arose in response to president Emmanuel Macron’s increased tax on gas.

“My initial thought was ‘I wonder what they’re rioting about this time.’ France is known for striking and rioting so the fact that they were rioting wasn’t much of a surprise to me,” said French teacher Natalie Chabot.

However, what truly ignited the flame goes beyond a tax increase on gasoline.

Financial problems in France have been building for years, leaving many of the French frustrated with having to live paycheck to paycheck.

People have trouble finding the money to eat, especially after paying the bills. “That is why Mr. Macron’s plans to raise the gasoline tax, modest an increment as it may seem, was the final straw for so many, the spark that finally set off a seething rage that has been building for years,” wrote Adam Nossiter from The New York Times

Although most of the news coverage is centered in Paris where the riots actually are, many throughout France agree with the sentiment of the Yellow Vest Movement.

“The focus of the protests has morphed from anger over fuel taxes to a broad rebuke of Macron, accused by critics of neglecting the rising costs of living for many in rural and small-town France,” stated the The Guardian.

The protests have become incredibly violent. The Yellow Vests have demolished buildings, set cars on fire and retaliated against the police. Crowds of protesters have been doused with water cannons and assaulted with tear gas.

Russia Today indicated that, on January 26, Jerome Rodrigues, a 41-year-old lead Yellow Vest activist, was shot in the eye with a rubber bullet while live streaming and rushed to the hospital before being put into a medically induced coma that night.

This same weekend held the first demonstration by the ‘Red Scarves’, who are protesting against the Yellow Vests because of their violence. Around 10,000 people marched as the ‘Red Scarves’ and “unlike many of the Yellow Vest marches, the afternoon procession in eastern Paris remained peaceful, ending at the Place de la Bastille” said The New York Times.

“I think the French people have a right to protest for better taxes on the gas and lower prices,” says Junior Rebekah McIntosh and current French student. “But I don’t feel like it is okay for them to be damaging monuments that the whole world wants to be able to see still.”

For example, Yellow Vests vandalized the Arc de Triomphe, a famous monument in Paris. They sprayed the Arc with graffiti and broke different artifacts held in the Arc, including the statue of the Marianne.

An article published by The Washington Post on December 3 stated that Macron won presidency in May of 2017 with a 66% vote but “his approval numbers are currently as low as 26 percent,” according to one November poll. His administration has sought to portray the yellow vests as political extremists from the far right and the far left, but polls suggest 72 percent of French voters support the movement, although that support is felt more strongly on the extremes and among France’s disaffected ­center-left.”

The Yellow Vest riots began with the gas tax and have transformed into an all-out protest against their president.

This has been going on for about three months, but the world is only going to see more of the Yellow Vests as the movement spreads throughout Europe.