French Police Arrest 40 as “Yellow Vest” Protests Resume

  • Police carried out a large-scale operation in which tear gas was used against the Yellow Vests.
  • One of the participants in a Saturday demonstration in Paris told reporters that he had taken to the streets due to the "unfair attitude" of the authorities.
  • On the eve of the "Yellow Vest" demonstration, President Macron said he was glad that people were free to express their opinions, but urged demonstrators to be calm.

Dozens of “Yellow Vest” protesters were arrested in Paris on Saturday. Several hundred activists gathered at various points in the French capital, and police detained at least 40 people. Concerns were expressed that the participants in these demonstrations would disrupt a climate protest march in the capital on Saturday.

The yellow vests movement, or yellow jackets movement, began in France in October 2018. The movement is motivated by rising fuel prices and a high cost of living. It claims that a disproportionate burden of the government’s tax reforms were falling on the working and middle classes, particularly in rural and suburban areas.

Police carried out a large-scale operation in which tear gas was used against the Yellow Vests. About 7,000 police officers participated in this operation. However, most protesters this time did not wear reflective vests, which became a symbol and a sign of the protest movement, so as not to attract the attention of the police.

The “Yellow Vest” movement arose in France in November last year during protests against increasing excise taxes on motor fuel. It took the form of weekly protests and lasted until spring. The “Yellow Vests” accuse President Emmanuel Macron of indifference to the interests of poor citizens, who have moved to distant suburbs and rural areas in recent years due to a lower cost of living.

Residents of these places, to a much greater extent than urban dwellers, depend on personal vehicles. Thus, the increase in excise taxes on gasoline, which the authorities had in mind in order to encourage people to drive less and use public transport, will have a greater impact. “Yellow Vest” protests often led to violence and unrest. Macron ultimately cancelled the planned tax increase.

One of the participants in a Saturday demonstration in Paris told reporters that he had taken to the streets due to the “unfair attitude” of the authorities against the movement and expressed concern that the “Yellow Vests” had a bad reputation. Saturday’s protests coincided with an annual European Heritage Days, when many historical monuments and museums open their doors to visitors.

European Heritage Days (EHD) is a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission involving all 50 signatory states of the European Cultural Convention under the motto, Europe: a common heritage. The annual programme offers opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public.

On Friday, on the eve of the “Yellow Vest” demonstration, President Macron said he was glad that people were free to express their opinions, but urged demonstrators to be calm. The “Yellow Vest” riots forced French authorities to curtail tax reform, and instead of the promised savings, set off into new multi-billion dollar spending. The protest was triggered by a new environmental tax on expensive gasoline, and the reasons are rooted in Macron’s reform program, which he began as an adviser and minister of economy under the previous president, François Hollande.

The goal is to get the economy out of its sleep, and methods include infringing on the generous rights of workers in favor of employers, shaking up the cozy budget sphere and cutting taxes in the hope that the rich and business will invest the savings. The French economy has stagnated for the second decade. Since the beginning of the century, the average growth rate has barely exceeded 1% per year, which is lower than in general in the G-7 countries.

All the years after the financial crisis a decade ago, unemployment has been around 10%, which is almost twice as high as in neighboring Germany and the UK. A former banker, Macron is convinced that the root of the problem is the socialist structure of the French economy.

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Joyce Davis

My history goes back to 2002 and I  worked as a reporter, interviewer, news editor, copy editor, managing editor, newsletter founder, almanac profiler, and news radio broadcaster.

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