France's gilets jaunes protests recently took a violent turn, but the underlying movement remains cleverly diffuse, non-hierarchical and non-partisan.
UNITED NATIONS – The French government is calling in reinforcements ahead of planned demonstrations across the country this weekend. The hope is to avoid a repeat of violent riots last weekend that caused property damage across Paris and left more than 100 people injured.
Some 65,000 police officers and other security personnel are already deployed nationwide to monitor the “yellow vest” (or gilets jaunes) protests. That political movement, which involved barricading highways, city streets and power plants, begin last month in protest of a $0.30/gallon gasoline tax proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.
Jim Adams is a professor of economics at the University of Michigan and has written extensively on the French economy.
“I don’t think that it’s so much a resistance to the green idea or even the green implementation here. This was just the spark that lit the flame.”
He says Macron was elected for two reasons: to make the French economy more dynamic and modify the welfare state to offer greater protection for predominantly younger risk-takers as opposed to merely helping those at the end of long and steady careers.
Earlier this week the French government paused the gasoline tax, but demands from protesters have only grown to include calls to raise the minimum wage — a sign their frustrations went beyond a gripe over a single new tax.
“It happened to be the pretext for this more general discontent that the earliest rounds of reform during the honeymoon period of the Macron administration tended more to do the things that were on the center-right part of his agenda than on the center-left.”
While last weekend’s violence was a bad look for the gilets jaunes, the broader movement has withstood attempts to be co-opted for partisan gain and remains cleverly diffuse and non-hierarchical. Buoyed by widespread public support, don’t expect gilets jaunes to surrender their yellow vests just yet.