As part of his environmental policy strategy, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a green tax on fuel last month to go into effect Jan. 1. The move set off nearly a month of protests around France. The French Interior Ministry estimates 136,000 protesters turned out across the country over the weekend, in addition to 280,000 in previous weeks.
Nicknamed for the safety vests worn by protesters, known as gilets jaunes, the yellow vest movement has sparked a political crisis for the French government. The protests started in the French provinces but spread to Paris, where demonstrations turned into riots over the weekend and scenes of violent civil unrest played out along the city’s famous Avenue des Champs Élysées.
Who are the members of the yellow vest movement and how did it emerge?
Originally, the yellow vest protesters were people from rural areas who have to drive long distances as part of their daily life. They said they couldn’t afford the hike in fuel prices. Protests appeared in pockets around France to denounce Macron’s green tax and then quickly grew into a larger movement that includes members of the working and middle classes who are expressing their frustration about slipping standards of living. They say their incomes are too high to qualify for social welfare benefits but too low to make ends meet. The movement has no official leadership and was organized initially through social media groups.
The protesters focus on Macron as the source of their problems. Along with his early reforms to loosen labor laws and slash France’s famous wealth tax, the fuel tax reinforces protesters’ image of him as a president of the rich.
Who Are France's Yellow Vest Protesters, And What Do They Want?
As part of his environmental policy strategy, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a green tax on fuel last month to go into effect Jan. 1.